There have been a number of changes to the benefits system in England, Scotland and Wales.
In Northern Ireland, the introduction of the Welfare Reform Act (2015) means there will now be changes to many current benefits.
Some are being replaced while others may have different rules for claiming them.
This page tells you more about what’s happening across the UK.
- Universal Credit
- Personal Independence Payment replacing Disability Living Allowance
- The benefit cap
- Housing Benefit cuts for social housing tenants
- Housing Benefit if you’re aged between 18 and 21
- Changes to the Social Fund
- What you can do about the changes
Universal Credit is a new simpler, single monthly payment for people looking for work or on a low income.
It is replacing some of the benefits and tax credits you might be getting now.
Whether you can claim depends on where you live and your personal circumstances.
Universal Credit in Northern Ireland
Universal Credit is due to be introduced in Northern Ireland in 2017. Final details have yet to be agreed on when it will start.
Personal Independence Payment replacing Disability Living Allowance
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) has been replaced by a benefit called Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for people aged 16 to 64.
Personal Independence Payment in Northern Ireland
Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will be introduced in Northern Ireland on 20 June 2016. From that date, you will no longer be able to claim Disability Living Allowance.
If you’re already getting Disability Living Allowance and your benefit is due to come to an end or you report a change in your needs, you will be contacted about reassessment for PIP at some point after 20 June 2016.
If you have an indefinite or lifetime award for DLA you won’t be contacted until December 2016 at the earliest.
It is expected that everyone who is currently getting DLA will have been invited to claim PIP by December 2018.
The benefit cap
If you’re aged 16 to 64, there may be a limit on the total amount of benefit income you can get. This is called a benefit cap.
From Autumn 2016, the maximum amount you can get in benefit income will be reduced to:
- £23,000 a year if you live in London
- £20,000 a year if you live elsewhere in the UK
The benefit cap in Northern Ireland
The benefit cap is due to be introduced in Northern Ireland on 31 May 2016.
Housing Benefit cuts for social housing tenants
If you’re renting from a local authority, housing association or registered social landlord, your Housing Benefit may be cut by:
This is often referred to as the ‘Bedroom Tax’, the ‘under-occupation penalty’ or the ‘removal of the spare room subsidy’.
Your Housing Benefit may be cut by:
- 14% if you are considered to have one spare bedroom
- 25% if you have two spare bedrooms or more
The ‘Bedroom Tax’ in Northern Ireland
The ‘Bedroom Tax’ is due to be introduced in Northern Ireland later in 2016 but final details are yet to be agreed.
The Northern Ireland government has agreed funding to help people who will be affected by the changes.
Housing Benefit if you’re aged between 18 and 21
From April 2017, you will no longer be automatically entitled to Housing Benefit.
However, you will still be able to claim if you’re:
- a parent with dependent children
- classed as a vulnerable adult
- have worked continuously for six months before making a claim
Changes to the Social Fund
Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans
Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans were abolished on 1 April 2013. They have been replaced by support provided by your local authority in England and the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales.
- If you live in England, see this interactive map on the Children’s Society website to find your local welfare assistance scheme.
- If you live in Scotland, find out more about the Scottish Welfare Fund on the Scottish Government website.
- If you live in Wales, the Welsh Government has introduced the Discretionary Assistance Fund.
Changes to the Social Fund in Northern Ireland
In Northern Ireland the date from when changes to the Social Fund will apply is yet to be announced.
As people are being moved onto Universal Credit, Budgeting Loans are being replaced by a new system of Budgeting Advances.
Find out more about Budgeting Advances on the Citizens Advice website.
If you’re not yet getting Universal Credit you can still claim Budgeting Loans.
Find out more about Budgeting Loans from the Social Fund.
What you can do about the changes
If you’re affected by these benefit changes and you’re worried about managing on less money, the first step is to make sure you know exactly how much you have coming in and what you have to spend it on.
Every year your council is given a pot of money to help people in the short term who are having trouble paying their rent. The council decides who should be given what they call ‘Discretionary Housing Payments’