71,000 households to be affected by important Universal Credit change

Some 71,000 households on Universal Credit in Northern Ireland need to apply for Universal Credit as their current benefits are ending.

This includes 34,000 households which solely claim Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit payments.

The Department for Communities (DfC), which handles benefits in Northern Ireland as the DWP does in England and Wales, has announced the ‘Move to UC’ initiative is beginning this week.

Claimants will be sent Migration Notice letters from the department explaining what they need to do.

Once a person has been sent a letter, they have three months to put in their claim for Universal Credit before their existing claim is ended.

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Universal Credit is replacing these six legacy benefits:

  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Income Support
  • Housing Benefit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit.

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Once the application is made, people should receive their first Universal Credit payment after five weeks and they will be paid twice a month from then onwards.

Unlike the monthly DWP payment system for Universal Credit in England and Wales, benefit payments usually go out twice a month in Northern Ireland.

Claimants who will be worse off on Universal Credit will be given what’s called transitional protection to keep their payments at the same level.

But anyone choosing to move to Universal Credit ahead of receiving an official letter will not be eligible to receive this protection and could find themselves hit by an income drop.

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The DfC says it will align its changeover plans with similar activities being carried out by the DWP.

The department aims to complete migration by March 2025 for people on tax credits (including people in receipt of tax credits and ESA), Jobseeker’s Allowance (Income-related), Income Support and Housing Benefit.

The transfer of claimants on income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will now take place in 2028 rather than the original rollout date of 2024.

Those impacted by this decision include people who only get income-related ESA as well as those who get both income-related ESA and Housing Benefit.

However, people claiming ESA alongside Child Tax Credit will be moved before this as part of the current rollout.

DfC Work and Health Secretary, Paddy Rooney, said: “We are approaching the final implementation stage of Universal Credit with the utmost care.

“We will closely monitor the impact of implementation and ensure that all of the proper help, advice and support is available to everyone throughout the ‘Move to UC’ process.”

The minister added: “Anyone entitled to UC may be able to claim extra financial support to help with essential costs while waiting on their first payment, including a Universal Credit Contingency Fund grant payment or an advance loan.

“We deliberately chose the live date of October 16 to avoid claims closing in and around the Christmas period.

“If you don’t make that claim, your benefits will stop, so we have deliberately chosen October to avoid that cliff edge.”

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