Introduction to Universal Credit

Universal Credit will be introduced in Northern Ireland in Autumn 2017 under the Northern Ireland (Welfare Reform) Act 2015. The changes will affect working-age claimants aged 18 to 64 years old.

This information is provided for planning purposes only.

What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is a new payment that when introduced, will support you if you are on a low income or out of work. It will give you the help you need to prepare for work, start work or earn more money.

Universal Credit will be for working-age people aged 18 to 64 years. It will include support for the cost of housing, children and childcare, as well as financial support for disabled people, carers and people who are too ill to work.

What benefits are being replaced by Universal Credit?

The benefits that will be replaced are:

  • Jobseeker’s Allowance (income-based)
  • Employment and Support Allowance (income-related)
  • Income Support
  • Child Tax Credits
  • Working Tax Credits
  • Housing Benefit (Rental)

A new Department of Finance Rate Rebate Scheme will provide rates support for tenants or home owners who are entitled to Universal Credit.

The following benefits will not be replaced by Universal Credit and will continue:

  • Jobseeker’s Allowance (Contribution- based)
  • Employment and Support Allowance (Contribution- based)
  • Child Benefit
  • Pension Credit
  • Carer’s’ Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit

Disability Living Allowance will be replaced by Personal Independence Payment.

Universal Credit will be made up of separate amounts of money to meet your personal needs, whether you are a single person or part of a couple.

When you move from any of these benefits or credits, you will not be any worse off at the point where you change to Universal Credit, as long as your circumstances stay the same as before.

Claiming Universal Credit?

Universal Credit will be claimed online once it is introduced in 2017 and you will be able to claim at a time that best suits you.

In Northern Ireland, Universal Credit will be paid twice a month to a household. A household could be a single person, a couple or a family. A monthly payment can be requested.

If a person is renting a property, the housing element of the Universal Credit payment will be paid to the landlord. A payment directly to the person claiming Universal Credit can be requested.

Making Work Pay

Universal Credit aims to introduce greater fairness to the welfare system by ensuring it is better to work. Starting work is easier under Universal Credit because unlike the current system, benefits will not suddenly be removed.

A certain amount can be earned before a Universal Credit payment is reduced. This is known as your Work Allowance.

For any money you earn over your Work Allowance, your Universal Credit will be gradually reduced.

This feature of Universal Credit allows you to take temporary or seasonal jobs without worrying about making a brand new claim or any gaps between paydays as you move in and out of work.

Getting ready for Universal Credit

If you are currently receiving benefits or credits that are due to be replaced by Universal Credit, the Department for Communities will be in touch to guide and assist you through the steps you need to take.

But getting online and sorting out the best way to manage your money will help you get the most from Universal Credit.

Help and Support

The Northern Ireland Executive has agreed support will be available for working families claiming Universal Credit. These families can apply for a supplementary payment to help with expenses because of employment.

The detail of this support is yet to be finalised and agreed by the Northern Ireland Assembly. 

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