Universal Credit

What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is due to be introduced in Northern Ireland from September 2017. This is a single payment for working-age people who may be on a low income or out of work and claiming benefit. It includes support for the cost of housing, children and childcare, as well as financial support for disabled people, carers and people who are too ill to work. 

You can find out more about Universal Credit by clicking here>>

There have also been many changes to the benefits system over the last few years and these are set to continue. These changes could affect you and your family in a number of ways so it’s important to be aware of the changes so you can prepare well in advance.

Universal Credit key facts

Universal Credit replaces several means-tested benefits including Housing Benefit. This is a single payment for working-age people who may be on a low income or out of work. To claim Universal Credit, the claimant must agree a commitment that they will look for work or strive to increase their earnings if they are already working.

The following means-tested benefits will be replaced by Universal Credit:-

  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit

To be eligible for Universal Credit in Northern Ireland the claimant must:-

  • Live in Northern Ireland
  • Be 18 years of age or over (some claimants aged 16 may be eligible)
  • Be under State Pension age
  • Not be in full-time education
  • Not have savings or capital over £16,000

Digital Service

Universal Credit is a digital service. This means that the benefit application and all subsequent communications relating to the claim will be carried out online. Claimants will not receive letters or emails about their claim they have a responsibility to regularly log into their online Universal Credit account to access any communications about their claim. 

You can find out more about Universal Credit in this helpful short film

When will Universal Credit be introduced? 

The Introduction of Universal Credit will be carried out in two phases:

  • Transition Phase – new benefit claims will be for Universal Credit
  • Managed migration – existing benefit claimants will migrate over to Universal Credit.

The transition phase will be introduced for new claims by geographical area from September 2017 until September 2018. Following this phase, the managed migration phase will run from July 2019 until March 2022.

If someone who is currently on one of the benefits being replaced has a change in circumstances and lives in an area where Universal Credit has been introduced, they may be moved to Universal Credit. This can happen at any point from the start of the transition phase providing the claimant lives in an area where Universal Credit has been rolled out.

Planned Rollout across Northern Ireland

The planned roll-out of the Universal Credit transition phase will be introduced in the following areas beginning in Limavady from September 2017.

In the lead up to the introduction of Universal Credit in Northern Ireland, Radius Housing has gathered information on the welfare changes to be introduced and how they will impact on those affected by these changes. The most important advice is to ensure you prepare in advance and to seek any help required to support you through these changes.

Claiming Universal Credit will involve some fairly significant changes if you are used to claiming benefits in the old style at your Jobs and Benefits Office. You will see quite a number of changes to this process including the need to have a bank account, the fact you have to apply and manage your account online, budgeting on a fortnightly rather than weekly basis and the increased pressure to look for and take on work.

Support for Vulnerable Claimants

The definition of a vulnerable claimant is ‘An individual who is identified as having complex needs and requires additional support to enable them to access Universal Credit Services’

  • Support for financially vulnerable claimants. These are claimants who have debt such as rent arrears or other debt:
    • Claimants may be referred to Finance Support i.e. Discretionary Support
    • Claimants will be signposted to third sector provision for financial capability advice including budgeting support
  • Support for non-digital claimants. These are claimants who have low digital skills or do not have digital access:
    • Assisted digital via end to end telephony or face to face for claimants with limited IT literacy;
    • Assisted access for claimants who do not have IT access;
    • Home visits will be carried out, when required.
  • Support for socially vulnerable claimants. These are claimants who have no ID, health conditions, drug/alcohol dependencies, cognitive impairment, complex housing or are homeless or care-levers;
    • Specific tailoring due to claim complexity’
    • Support could include Financial Capability advice including budgeting support and assistance with claim completion. Claimants may be referred to Financial Support i.e. Discretionary Support

Get more confidence online:

As the only way you can apply for Universal Credit is online, it is really important that you are familiar with the internet and how it works. You will need to manage your Universal Credit account online the way you would an online bank account, so it is also advisable to familiarise yourself with these kind of sites.

Find Work:

The Government is very keen that people are better off in work than out of it, so most people who claim Universal Credit will have to commit to some kind of work-related activity.

This will vary depending on someone’s circumstances, but will be agreed up front with a “work coach” at the Job Centre as part of something called the “claimant commitment”. If you do not comply with the terms of your claimant commitment then you may be “sanctioned”, which means your payment might be reduced or even stopped completely.

We know that it can often be difficult to find work so your Housing Officer at Radius will able to provide advice and support with this.

Radius Welfare Advice Service

Our Communities staff at Radius Housing are available in each of our offices, to help with queries around Universal Credit as well as other benefit issues. We can also offer a dedicated welfare support service with advice and assistance on a range of benefit changes, Universal Credit, budgeting and money management. We can signpost you to many other organisations who can offer a range of support and advice services.

Apply for help with rent: Discretionary Housing Payments

If you are facing hardship and need help with paying your rent, you may be eligible to apply for a short-term Discretionary Housing Payment and this can be applied for from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive here

Find out more about Discretionary Housing Payments on the Turn2Us website

Apply to local Credit Union for a Loan:

If you need help with personal budgeting, ask at your local Jobcentre and they will be able to tell you where face-to-face support is available.

If you’re waiting for your first benefit payment and have priority bills to pay or essential costs, help is available. Don’t be tempted to take out expensive credit like payday loans – they will only make your situation worse. Look into some of the other sources of help that are available instead, examples of which are set out below.

Apply to your local credit union for a loan:

If you find that you are going to have to borrow money, see if there’s a credit union in your area. They specialise in offering loans at low rates and helping members who need financial help. Some credit unions might lend money straightaway to new members without having to save with them first.

You will have to pay a higher interest charge than the rates offered to regular savers, but this rate is usually much lower than other high-cost credit, such as payday loans or doorstep loans. Approval for a loan will depend on what the credit union offers and your personal circumstances. The credit union will want to be sure you can afford to pay the loan back but they’ll work with you to make your repayments manageable.

Find out more in the money saving expert guide to Borrowing from a credit union & find you nearest credit union in Northern Ireland by using the Creditunionlocator

Click here to download a PDF from the Citizens Advice Bureau

Universal Credit is being rolled out in Northern Ireland from September 2017. To see when it will be introduced in your area, click and scroll to midway through this page on the NIdirect website.

You can find a list of the information you will need to provide before you start your claim on Making a Universal Credit claim by clicking here

If you and your partner are making a joint claim, only one of you will need to complete the online claim form, but that person will need to enter details for both of you.

You will be directed to apply for Universal Credit when you make a new claim for one of the benefits it’s replacing. You will also need to apply for Universal Credit if you have a change of circumstances.

There are a number of changes in circumstances that will trigger a claim for Universal Credit and these range from losing or gaining a job to having children or a change in caring responsibilities

All applications will have to be submitted online and claimants will have to create a username and password as well as answer two security questions. The claimant must have an email address, this can belong to an appointee. Once an account is created an email will be sent to the email address provided and this will be used to confirm the account. This must be actioned within one hour of the account being created.

When the account has been confirmed the claimant will be presented with a ‘to do’ list that will have to be completed before moving on. This list will include questions on nationality, health and housing. The date of the Universal Credit claim will be the date the claim is submitted and not the date a username and password has been created. Once all the ‘to do’ list questions have been answered the claimant can then submit the claim. Before submitting the claimant will be given the opportunity to review all the information they have provided to ensure it is correct.

Identification required when making a claim for Universal Credit

For verification of identity claimants are required to provide one primary evidence document and two secondary evidence documents. Acceptable documents are listed below:

Add list of evidence

A current passport showing that the holder, or person named in the passport as the child of the holder, is a British citizen or a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies having the right of abode in the United Kingdom


  • Certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen
  • Original birth certificate issued in the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or Ireland (or certified copy from Registrar)

Assessment Period

It may take up to six weeks after a Universal Credit claim has been made for the first payment to reach the claimant’s account.

When you make a claim for Universal Credit, unless you are exempt, there is a seven day waiting period. Universal Credit will not normally be paid for these first seven days of the claim; these days are called waiting days. This means housing costs, along with the personal allowance element will not be payable until the eight day after the claim date. Then, you must wait another month for your claim to be processed before you receive your first payment, so it can take around six weeks before you get any money.

During the assessment period claimants can apply for an advance of up to 50% of their Universal Credit standard allowance entitlement. Claimants will have to pay the advance payment back. The repayments will be automatically deducted from their Universal Credit payments until the advance is fully paid back over a 6 month period. Therefore, a reduced amount of Universal Credit will be paid for the period of up to 6 months whilst this advance payment is being paid back.

All applicants of Universal Credit will be required to claim Universal Credit online. When applying, you will need the following:

  • National Insurance Number
  • An email address
  • Your postcode
  • Your landlord’s details which are: Radius Housing, 38 – 52 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 6AA.
  • Details of the bank or building society account they want Universal Credit to be paid into
  • Details of savings or other capital they have
  • Details of any income that is not from work
  • Details of their housing costs (rental cost and a breakdown of these charges)
  • Details of any other benefits they are receiving

This is a helpful film from the DWP that will take you through how to apply?

You will be asked to provide details of all the people who live in their home such as their partner and children. Claimants may also be asked to provide evidence that confirms their information such as bank statements. This evidence should be provided within one calendar month of their claim being made. To be able to apply online, the claimant will need photographic ID, a bank account, a mobile phone number and an email address. If you require assistance when completing any forms relating to this, please contact your Housing Officer who can carry out a home visit or refer you to another agency or organisation who can provide you with help and assistance.

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