What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit was 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.

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.

UC Migration Update 2023-24

The final phase of Universal Credit (UC) implementation across Northern Ireland will begin next month for those in receipt of tax credits and no other benefits.

The ‘Move to UC’ will start on October 16 when Migration Notice letters will begin to issue to all Working Tax Credits and/or Child Tax Credits recipients who receive no other benefit.

Universal Credit Application Guide

An interactive, step-by-step guide to claiming Universal Credit online

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 make a commitment to 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 are carried out online. Claimants do not receive letters or emails about their claim: instead, they have to log in to their online Universal Credit account to access any communications about their claim. This should be done regularly.

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

Universal Credit explained - What, who and how?

  • 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 advice on how to manage their finances, including budgeting support.
    • Support for non-digital claimants. These are claimants who have low digital skills or do not have digital access.
      • Assistance over the phone 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, or who have health conditions, drug or alcohol dependencies, cognitive impairment, complex housing needs, or who are homeless or care-leavers.
      • Specific tailoring due to the complexity of the claim.
      • Support could include Financial Capability advice including budgeting support, and assistance with completing a claim. 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 manage an online bank account, so it is also advisable to familiarise yourself with these kind of sites.

  • Universal Credit has been introduced gradually in Northern Ireland since September 2017. To see when it will be introduced in your area, click and scroll to midway through this page on the NI Direct 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. These range from losing or gaining a job to having children or a change in caring responsibilities.

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

    When the account has been confirmed, you 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 have been created. Once you have answered all the ‘to do’ list questions, you can submit the claim. Before submitting, you will be

  • All applicants of Universal Credit are 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 you want Universal Credit to be paid into
    • Details of savings or other capital you have
    • Details of any income that is not from work
    • Details of your housing costs (rental cost and a breakdown of these charges)
    • Details of any other benefits you are receiving

    This is a helpful film from the Department of Work and Pensions that shows the application process step by step.

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

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Help and Support

If you would like further information or advice regarding Universal Credit, please contact your Housing Officer or our Welfare Advice Service

Help and assistance to get online is available at: www.nidirect.gov.uk/go-on-ni