Benefit changes

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

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.

Find out more about Universal Credit and how it might affect you in our guide Universal Credit explained

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.

Find out more about Universal Credit in Northern Ireland on the nidirect website

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Disability Living Allowance (DLA) has been replaced by a benefit called Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for people aged 16 to 64.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.

Find out more about Personal Independence Payment in Northern Ireland on the nidirect website

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
Find out more about how this could affect you in our guide The benefit cap

The benefit cap in Northern Ireland

The benefit cap is due to be introduced in Northern Ireland on 31 May 2016.

Find out more about the benefit cap in Northern Ireland on the nidirect website

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.

Find out more about changes to Housing Benefit in Northern Ireland on the Citizens Advice website

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.

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.

Find out more about changes to the Social Fund in Northern Ireland on the nidirect website

Budgeting Loans

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’

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