Welfare Reform

Welfare Reform will result in changes to the benefits system.  Many current benefits will cease to exist and new benefits and payments system will be introduced.

The bill has been passed by Westminster, and will start to be introduced within Northern Ireland as of the 31st May 2016 and continue over the coming years. 

Universal Credit will replace many existing benefits.

 

UNIVERSAL CREDIT

Universal Credit is a single means-tested benefit which will be paid to people of working age that may be on a low income, who are out of work or have disabilities or are too ill to work.  Therefore it will replace the 6 current benefits and credits:

·         Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

·         Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

·         Income Support

·         Housing Benefit

·         Working Tax Credit

·         Child Tax Credit

Universal Credit can be claimed online at www.nidirect.gov.uk and will be introduced during 2017.

It is designed to be paid once per calendar month but customers can opt to receive payments fortnightly.  If you currently receive Housing Benefit, the housing part of Universal Credit payment can be paid directly to us provided you choose that option. 

 

HOUSING BENEFIT

The new calculation for the housing part of Universal Credit will eventually be calculated based on the size of the property you live in and the number of people living there.  Two children of the same gender under 16 would be expected to share a room with each other.  Two children of mixed gender would be expected to share a room with each other until the age of ten.  Young people over 16 are permitted a single room to themselves.

 

The changes could affect you if you are within working age (16-64), sick or disabled and of you only receive a small amount of Housing Benefit.  You will not be affected if you live in a one bedroom home/bedsit or if you or your partner is over State Pension Age.

 

If your Housing Benefit is reduced you will have to pay the difference between your benefit allowance and rental charge.

 

A new Department of Finance Rate Rebate Scheme will provide rates support for tenant or home owners who are eligible for Universal Credit.  Find out more information about the Rate Rebate Scheme on www.nidirect.gov.uk.

 

PERSONAL INDEPENDENCE PAYMENT (PIP)

This will replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for people aged 16-64.  This new benefit aims to help people with disabilities live full, active and independent lives, and therefore is NOT a means tested benefit and available to people whether they are working or not.  It considers the impact that a condition has on a person’s everyday life, rather than the condition itself.

 

DLA will remain for children up to the age of 16 and for anyone over the age of 65.

 

You must have a health condition or disability for at least three months before you can apply for PIP and the condition or disability must be expected to last for a further nine months. New claims for PIP will be taken from 24th June 2016.

 

BENEFITS CAP

The introduction of a Benefit Cap will mean there will be a limit on the total amount of money for certain benefits for those of working age.  To begin the cap will only affect you if you receive Housing Benefit.  The cap is expected to be set at:

·         Max £350 per week – singles – no children/children not living with them

·         Max £500 per week – couples (with or without children) or lone parent with dependent children

Households will be excempt from the cap if any member of the household receives any disability benefits, or is any member of the household is eligible for Working Tax Credit. 

This will come into effect from 31st May 2016

 

FURTHER ADVICE & INFORMATION

If you think any of the above will affect you or would like more information contact your Housing Officer on 028 9042 8314 or the following advice agencies:

·         NI Direct – www.nidirect.gov.uk/welfarechanges

·         Citizens Advice – www.citizensadvice.org.uk

·         Advice NI – www.adviceni.net

·         Housing Rights – www.housingrights.org.uk