Social Size Criteria


We will not be providing face-to-face advice or training for the foreseeable future. We will contact existing advice clients by phone. Our staff will continue to support our members and can be reached via telephone and email as usual.

We are working hard to move our training, where possible, to digital. For any queries, please contact our training team at [email protected]

We can only provide advice to people living in Northern Ireland. 

Helpline contact details:

Welfare Changes ring 0808 802 0020 or email [email protected]
Tax & Benefits ring 0800 988 2377 or email [email protected]
Business Debt ring 0800 083 8018 or email [email protected]
Debt Action ring 0800 028 1881 or email [email protected]
EU Settlement Scheme ring 0800 138 6545 or email [email protected]
For Historical Institutional Abuse advice and support call 02890 645919 email [email protected]


Social Size Criteria, or the ‘Bedroom Tax’, changes how much housing benefit you are entitled to if you live in social housing.

Social housing means a property owned by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) or a Housing Association.

Social Size Criteria does not apply if you or your partner are state pension age or if you live in supported or temporary housing. 

What is Social Size Criteria?

Housing benefit for those people in social housing is now calculated on the number of bedrooms you are deemed to need compared to how many bedrooms you have. This already applies to private rented tenants.

One bedroom is allowed for:

  • a couple
  • a person aged 16 or over
  • two children of the same sex aged under 16
  • two children aged under 10
  • any other child (other than a foster child or child whose main home is elsewhere)
  • children who can’t share because of a disability or medical condition
  • a non-resident carer or carers providing overnight care

You might be allowed to have an extra bedroom on your Housing Benefit calculation if you are:

  • an approved foster carer who has a child placed with you
  • an approved foster carer who is between placements but only for up to 52 weeks from the end of the last placement
  • a newly approved foster carer for up to 52 weeks from the date of approval if no child is placed with you during that time

There are also provisions for students and members of the armed forces who are away from home to have their bedroom counted as being occupied. Couples that cannot share a bedroom because of a medical condition or a disability may also be allowed an extra room.

How your Housing Benefit is affected

If you are deemed to have one or more extra bedrooms in your household then your Housing Benefit will be reduced.

This applies to Housing Benefit for your rent and certain service charges. Your Housing Benefit award be reduced by:

  • 14 per cent if you have one extra bedroom
  • 25 per cent if you have two or more extra bedrooms

Support if you are affected by the Social Size Criteria

There is support available to help you if your Housing Benefit has been reduced in the form of a Welfare Supplementary Payment.

This payment will cover your loss of Housing Benefit until 31 March 2020. You don’t need to apply for this. The Department for Communities (DfC) will identify those affected by the Social Size Criteria and send a letter advising about this payment.

If you receive the Housing Benefit payment yourself then this payment is paid to you otherwise the Department for Communities (DfC) will pay it directly to your landlord.

What if your circumstances change?

If your circumstances change then this can affect the Welfare Supplementary Payment you receive to mitigate the effect of the Social Size Criteria.

For example, if you move to another property without management transfer status that is owned by a housing association or NIHE and it has either the same number of bedrooms or more bedrooms than your current property then your Welfare Supplementary Payment will end.

Getting Advice

If you are worried or need advice about the Social Size Criteria then contact the Independent Welfare Changes Helpline on 0808 802 0020.