Universal Credit was introduced in Northern Ireland in September 2017 under the Northern Ireland (Welfare Reform) Act 2015. It is a payment that 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.

Who can claim Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a payment for people over 18 (16-17 in certain circumstances) but under State Pension age who are on a low income or out of work. It includes support for the cost of housing, children and childcare, and financial support for people with disabilities, carers and people too ill to work.

Universal Credit if you are an EEA or Swiss citizen living in Northern Ireland

If you are a British or Irish citizen living in Northern Ireland and receiving social security benefits or State Pension when the UK leaves the EU on 1 January 2021 you will continue to receive your benefit payments.  You do not need to do anything.

If you are an EEA or Swiss citizen living in Northern Ireland before 31 December 2020 you can only access social security benefits if you have been granted settled status or pre-settled status.  Even if you have permanent residency you need to apply for EU Settled Status before the deadline of 30 June 2021. Applications can be made at EU Settlement Scheme

What benefits are being replaced by Universal Credit?

The benefits that are being replaced are:

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

People can now make a claim to Universal Credit instead of having to submit multiple claims for the six benefits that it replaced.

If you receive any of the six benefits that Universal Credit replaced but your circumstances change, you may need to move to Universal Credit from the date of the change of circumstances.

If you move to Universal Credit from any of the following benefits, you will continue to be paid for 2 weeks after you claim Universal Credit:

  • Jobseeker’ Allowance (income-based)
  • Employment and Support Allowance (income-related)
  • Income Support
  • Housing Benefit (rental)

If you receive any of the existing benefits replaced by Universal Credit and your circumstances do not change, the Department will contact you when it is time for you to move.

The Universal Credit housing costs amount does not include money for rates.

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

Universal Credit and rented housing: information for landlords

Information for private and social sector landlords about Universal Credit is available. This also explains what budgeting and payment support is available for tenants who may need help.

Universal Credit: Employer information pack

The information pack explains what Universal Credit means for employers.

Universal Credit: Sanctions

Your Universal Credit payments may be reduced if you do not do certain things agreed in your commitment and you cannot give a good reason to explain why. This is known as a ‘Sanction’. If you are sanctioned, you will be told how much of your Universal Credit payments you will lose and for how long.

Universal Credit and Childcare Costs: information for childcare providers

Universal Credit is a payment for people over the age of 18 and under State Pension age who are on a low income or out of work. Some people on Universal Credit may get help with up to 85% of their childcare costs.

Help and support

The Northern Ireland Executive has agreed support will be available for people on a low income who are claiming Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit. These Welfare Supplementary Payments will be available to help with the additional expenses of employment.

If you would like independent help and advice on Universal Credit or any of the other welfare changes, you can visit any independent advice office or contact:

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