Universal Credit Delayed until 2018 – How will this impact NI Claimants?

The Department of Communities has advised that the introduction of Universal Credit in Northern Ireland will be delayed until autumn next year, eight months later than planned. Spokespersons for the Department have put the delay down to the need to incorporate last year’s budget changes into the development of the local ICT system.

What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is part of Welfare Reform, the biggest shake-up of the welfare system in over 70 years. Universal Credit will combine six existing means-tested benefits into one. It will combine:

  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Parts of the Social Fund.

Universal Credit is intended to be much simpler than that of the current system where separate benefits, which often overlap, are administered by different agencies, with different premiums and different ways of taking earnings into account.

When was Universal Credit due to be introduced?

Universal Credit was due to be introduced to Northern Ireland on a phased basis, starting in January 2017. It will now begin in autumn 2017.

How will the delay affect claimants?

The Department claims that full roll-out will take place before the end of 2018. Therefore the delay will mean that the Department will have less than 12 months to implement Universal Credit. In England, the roll out has been problematic with many pilot projects and the ICT system failing to deal with various claimants’ circumstances. We have already been working to a much shorter timescale compared to England if the Northern Ireland system undergoes the same teething problems we would be very concerned about how so many claimants will be moved onto the new system in such a short space of time.Little has also been said about the Welfare Fund which was dedicated to

Little has also been said about the Welfare Fund which was dedicated to ease the impact of the reforms, the agreed amounts (as set out in the Mitigations Paper) run over a four-year period, beginning in 2016/17. No information has been released about whether these funds will also be delayed in line with Universal Credit.

Where can I find more information?

See the Factsheets page of our website for detailed information about Universal Credit, Welfare Changes and the development of Welfare Reform in Northern Ireland.

You can also avail of our free Family Benefits Advice Service, to speak to one of our specialist advisors please call 028 9267 8200.