Universal Credit is replacing 6 different benefits for working-aged people and has been rolled out across all areas of Nothern Ireland.
Certain benefits in Northern Ireland are changing. Universal Credit is a new benefit to help people on a low income or who are out of work.
Universal Credit is a working aged benefit however you may be impacted if you are part of a mixed aged couple even if you have reached the state pension age. See the 'Universal Credit and Mixed Aged Couples' section below.
What benefits are being replaced?
Not every benefit is being replaced. Universal Credit will combine 6 existing benefits:
- Jobseeker’s Allowance (income-based)
- Employment and Support Allowance (income-related)
- Income Support
- Child Tax Credits
- Working Tax Credits
- Housing Benefit (rent)
If you currently receive any of the above benefits then you will be transferred onto Universal Credit between July 2020 and 2023. Universal Credit is paid every twice per month although you can also request a monthly payment if you wish. It can take between 5 to 6 weeks for your first payment of Universal Credit.
What benefits are staying the same?
Some benefits will stay as they are. The following benefits are not being brought under Universal Credit:
- Jobseeker’s Allowance (contribution-based)
- Employment and Support Allowance (contribution-based)
- Child Benefit
- Pension Credit
- Carer’s Allowance
- Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
Who can claim Universal Credit?
In order to claim Universal Credit in Northern Ireland you must:
- be living in Northern Ireland
- be 18 years of age or over (some people who are 16 or 17 may be able to claim based on their circumstances)
- be under State Pension age
- not be in full-time education
- not have savings or capital over £16,000
Universal Credit and mixed aged couples
A mixed aged couple is where one member has reached the qualifying age for Pension Credit and the other is below the age of entitlement. In areas where Universal Credit has not been implemented mixed aged couples can make a claim to Pension Credit if only one member has reached the qualifying age.
Under Universal Credit rules both members of a couple will need to have reached the qualifying age of Pension Credit to make a claim. If one member of the couple is under the age of entitlement then they will need to make a claim to Universal Credit instead. This change is being implemented in Northern Ireland on 15th May 2019.
From 15th May 2019, both members of the couple need to have reached state pension age to make a joint claim for the benefit. If one member of the couple is below state pension age they will need to make a claim for Universal Credit which can potentially leave them worse off financially. The partner who is of state pension age won't be subject to work-based conditionality such as looking for jobs however they may meet the entitlement criteria for the Limited Capability for Work and Work Related Activity (LCWWRA) under Universal Credit which can allow for an additional element of Universal Credit to be paid. The younger member may be required to look for work or attend training courses depending on their personal circumstances.
These changes don't affect couples who already claim Pension Credit.
Universal Credit is a digital service
Universal Credit is claimed online.
You will need to maintain your claim online as well.
The Department for Communities will contact you and inform you of the steps you need to take to claim Universal Credit.
You can contact our freephone helpline on 0800 915 4604 if you need more information about getting help to make or maintain a Universal Credit claim in Northern Ireland.