We use cookies to provide you with the best experience on our website - find out how we use cookies.
By continuing to browse our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

Welfare reform timeline

Please note: this  timeline could substantially change as the implementation of welfare reform develops in Northern Ireland. We will endeavour to keep you updated of any changes.

Last update: 29 March 2017

If you have any concerns about welfare reform in Northern Ireland, please contact the Welfare Changes Helpline: 0808 802 0020

17 February 2016 - now in force

Abolition of ESA in Youth for new claims 

1 April 2016 - now in force            

For ESA, JSA and IS, the waiting period before housing costs (including help with mortgage interest) can be met is increased from 13 weeks to 39 weeks

4 April 2016 - now in force

The amount a person can pay as a penalty in order to avoid prosecution changes from 30% of the overpayment to 50% (subject to a maximum of £2,000)

April 2016 - now in force

Freezing of Child Benefit and certain amounts of Tax Credit for 4 years

23 May 2016 - now in force

Introduction of Mandatory Reconsideration and Direct Lodgement of appeals

31 May 2016 - now in force

Introduction of the Benefit Cap

The benefit cap applies where someone in the household receives Housing Benefit. Limits on maximum amount of benefits to be paid are set at:

  • £500 a week if household is made up of a couple (with or without children) or of a lone parent and who has children living with her/him, that s/he is responsible for ; or
  • £350 a week for single people who have no children living with them.

 Regulations for supplementary payments for those who will be disadvantaged by the Benefit Cap and by ESA changes come into force.

20 June 2016 - now in force

DLA abolished for new claims and replaced by Personal Independence Payment. Start of “natural reassessment” of existing DLA claimants for PIP

31 October 2016 (originally planned for June) - now in force

Time-limiting of contributory ESA to 365 days

Also applies to those in receipt of ESA in Youth

Time limit is retrospective but days in the support group do not count towards the 365 day time limit

7 November 2016 - now in force

The benefit cap amounts reduce from £500 to £384.62 and from £350 to £257.69 per week:

- £384.62 a week for couples (with or without children), for lone parents with children living with them and that they are responsible for, or

- £257.69 a week for single persons who have no children living with them.]

15 November 2016 - now in force

New provisions on changes to overpayments and how they can be recovered come into effect

28 November 2016 now in force

Discretionary Support Payments replace parts of the discretionary Social Fund (Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants). Budgeting loans will remain (probably until full introduction of Universal Credit)

12 December 2016 now in force

Start of “managed reassessments” of existing DLA claimants for PIP

16 January 2017 now in force

For Income Support, the age of the youngest child for which a person is responsible in order to be treated as a lone parent changes from 7 to 5 years old, with a phased-in process for existing claimants.

Similar changes are made to JSA regarding availability for work for lone parents where the youngest child is aged 5.

20 February 2017  now in force

Implementation of the “Bedroom Tax” in Northern Ireland. However, any reductions in Housing Benefit as a result of the bedroom tax will be mitigated through supplementary payments until 2020.

3 April 2017

The Work-Related Activity Component will be abolished for new claimants to ESA.

6 April 2017

The Child Element of Child Tax Credit will be limited to two children per family, with some exceptions. However, people will still be able to claim for more than two children if they were born before 6 April 2017. 

The Family Element of Child Tax Credit will be abolished for new families. People will continue to receive it if they are responsible for a child or children born before that date.

Bereavement Support Payment will replace three existing bereavement benefits: Bereavement Payment, Bereavement Allowance and Widowed Parents Allowance. The rates will be: 

  • surviving partners with at least one dependent child – an initial payment of £3,500 and up to 18 monthly payments of £350;
  • surviving partners with no dependent children – an initial payment of £2,500, no additional payments.

People already in receipt of the existing bereavement benefits will not be affected by the change.

25 September 2017

Introduction of Universal Credit



Follow us on twitter


Flickr logo

Follow us on Linkedin


Become a member

Work with us

WRAP login

Donate to Law Centre (NI)


Law Centres Network logo