Changes to benefits - Welfare Reform
Welfare Reform will result in changes to the benefits system. Many of the current benefits will cease to exist and new benefits and payment systems will be introduced.
What changes to benefits are being proposed in Northern Ireland?
- introduction of Universal Credit
- introduction of Personal Independence Payment
- changes to Housing Benefit
- introduction of a Benefit Cap
- end of the current Social Fund scheme which will be replaced by a new service called Discretionary Support
- changes to Employment and Support Allowance
- introduction of new Fraud and Error powers
- introduction of further sanctions and hardship measures
What support will be available?
If you are going to be affected by any of the changes, you will be contacted in advance. Support and advice will be available at every stage to help you through these changes and to answer your queries.
How will the changes affect you?
Housing Benefit payments may change. These changes will affect Housing Executive or Housing Association tenants from 16 to 61 years old.
Pensioners will not be affected.
Universal Credit will be one single benefit for people aged 18 to 64 years old paid to each household. Some 16 and 17 year olds will be able to claim Universal Credit depending on their circumstances. To date, has not been introduced in Northern Ireland. This information is provided for information purposes only.
Employment Support Allowance
It is proposed to limit the amount of time you can claim contribution based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if you are in the Work Related Activity Group. It is also proposed to remove the special conditions that allow some young people to get contribution-based ESA.
Personal Independence Payment
It is proposed to replace Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independence Payment for eligible people of working age (16 – 64 years). Personal Independence Payment is a new benefit to help people with disabilities live full, active and independent lives. To date Personal Independence Payment has not been introduced in Northern Ireland.
It is proposed to change current payments from the Social Fund. Some payments will be part of a new type of support service called Discretionary Support, while some will become part of Universal Credit.
It is proposed that a benefit cap will be introduced. This will limit the amount of benefit people aged 16 to 64 can get. This means you should not get more in benefit payments than you would if you were earning an average wage. This is law in England, Scotland and Wales but to date, has not been introduced in Northern Ireland.
Fraud and Error
It is proposed to introduce new measures to tackle fraud and reduce error.
Sanctions and hardship
It is proposed to introduce new sanctions and hardship payments. If you do not follow the rules of the benefit you are getting such as going to an interview or medical examination you could lose your benefit – these are called sanctions. If losing benefits means you are in severe need, hardship payments can be made which you will have to pay back.