Universal Credit is a payment for people under State Pension age and 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. 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 but under State Pension age who are on a low income or out of work. In some circumstances you can claim if you are 16 or 17 and in full-time training or a full-time student.

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

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. Find out more information at EU Settlement Scheme.

What benefits have been replaced by Universal Credit?

The benefits replaced by Universal Credit 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 claim 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’s Allowance (income-based)
  • Employment and Support Allowance (income-related)
  • Income Support
  • Housing Benefit (rental)

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 homeowners who are entitled to Universal Credit.

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.

If you are considering moving to Universal Credit

When you claim Universal Credit, any benefits or tax credits it replaces will stop. If you are considering a move to Universal Credit from another benefit, you should check your eligibility and seek independent advice before making your claim.

While the Department cannot offer advice on which benefit to claim, a benefits calculator on nidirect can be used to check if you may be entitled and how much you may get. Independent advice is available from the Advice NI Helpline which includes an option for anyone needing help or advice about any changes to the welfare system, including making an informed choice about claiming Universal Credit.

The helpline number is 0800 915 4604 or via email on advice@adviceni.net. This service is free, confidential, independent and impartial.  The adviser will provide you with a Benefit Entitlement Check (BEC) to ensure that you are claiming all that you are entitled to (including a better off calculation) and can also provide you with help and information if you are worried about the impact of welfare reform. The adviser will also follow up on help needed in completing any claim forms.

If you think you could benefit from a free and confidential assessment to make sure you are getting all the benefits, services and support you are entitled to, you can contact the Department’s Make the Call team by calling 0800 232 1271; texting ADVICE to 079 8440 5248; visiting nidirect or emailing makethecall@dfcni.gov.uk.

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.

More information about Universal Credit is available for employers at nibusinessinfo.co.uk.

Videos explaining Universal Credit for employers are available.

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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