Changes to benefits - for people aged 16 to 64

Welfare Changes 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.

Over the past few years a number of changes have been made to the welfare system in Great Britain. Changes will now be introduced in Northern Ireland.

These are the biggest changes to our welfare system in over 60 years. Many of the current benefits will cease to exist and new benefits and payment systems will be introduced.

This information is provided for planning purposes only.

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
  • changes to disputing a social security decision

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

Housing Benefit payments will change. These changes will affect Housing Executive or Housing Association tenants from 16 to 61 years old.

Pensioners will not be affected.

Universal Credit

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. 

Employment Support Allowance

From October 2016, the amount of time you can claim contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will be limited if you are in the Work Related Activity Group. The special conditions will also be removed that previously allowed some young people to get contribution-based ESA.

Personal Independence Payment

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) replaced Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for people aged 16 to 64 years from 20 June 2016. PIP is a new benefit to help people with disabilities live full, active and independent lives.

Social Fund

Changes will be made to 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.

Benefit cap

The Benefit Cap was introduced in Northern Ireland from 31 May 2016. This limits the amount of benefit people aged 16 to 64 years can get. This means you should not get more in benefit payments than you would if you were earning an average wage. This is already law in England, Scotland and Wales.

Fraud and Error

New measures to tackle fraud and reduce error will be introduced.

Sanctions and hardship

New sanctions and hardship payments will be introduced. 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.

Changes to disputing a Social Security decision 

Since 23 May 2016, the way  you dispute a social security benefit decision has changed. From this date, you must ask for it to be reviewed before you can appeal the decision.


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