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What Universal Credit is

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

If you want to speak to someone about changes to benefits, you can phone the independent welfare changes helpline for free on 0808 802 0020 or contact your local Citizens Advice.

Universal Credit is being introduced across the Northern Ireland in stages. It will replace 6  ‘means-tested’ benefits - these are benefits you can get if your income and savings are below a certain level.

Whether you should apply for Universal Credit instead of one of these benefits, depends on where you live and your circumstances - check if you can apply.

Universal Credit works differently from other benefits - so if you’re moving from another benefit it’s important to know the differences.

The biggest differences are:

  • you can get Universal Credit if you’re unemployed but also if you’re working
  • you’ll get a single payment twice a month
  • instead of getting housing benefit separately, your housing costs will be part of your Universal Credit award but will be paid directly to your landlord or mortgage provider, unless you ask for it to be paid to you
  • you’ll need to apply separately for help with your rates

How Universal Credit works

You’ll get payments twice monthly to cover your living costs. If you claim Universal Credit as a couple, you’ll get a single payment for you and your partner. You can ask for the payment to be split between you and your partner and paid into separate bank accounts.

The payment is made up of a basic ‘standard allowance’ and extra payments that might apply to you depending on your circumstances.

You might be able to get extra payments if:

  • you have children - you’ll get more if you have childcare costs or have a disabled child
  • you need help with housing costs
  • you’re disabled or have a health condition
  • you care for a disabled person

Check how much you might get on GOV.UK

If you need help with rent and rates

If you need help with rent the payments will go directly to your landlord, unless you ask for them to be made to you.

If you need help with rates, you’ll need to apply separately to Land and Property Services.

If you’re working

You can work and still get Universal Credit - your Universal Credit will reduce gradually if you earn more. It will go up again if your job ends or you earn less.

Claiming other benefits if you get Universal Credit

You can claim other benefits at the same time as Universal Credit, including contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

These are benefits you can get if you have enough National Insurance contributions and you’re unemployed or can’t work because of illness or disability.

If you claim contribution-based JSA or ESA and you're eligible for Universal Credit, your JSA or ESA will be called 'new style' by the government. If you get either of these benefits, your Universal Credit will be reduced.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice and speak to an adviser to help you work out what other benefits you should be claiming at the same time as Universal Credit.

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