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Welfare reform mitigation payments: new regulations for ESA and benefit cap

New regulations have been made available which make provision for some of the mitigation payments that will be available in Northern Ireland for those affected by welfare reform.

The regulations have now cleared the Committee stage. They are due to be debated at the Northern Ireland Assembly on Monday 14 March.

It is highly likely that they will be approved in their current form. The Assembly cannot amend the regulations but can only express a wish for them to be annulled or passed into law.

The Welfare Supplementary Payments Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016 (draft) make provision for two of the mitigation payments – those affected by the time limiting of contribution-based ESA and those affected by the benefit cap.


Supplementary payments for the loss of contribution-based ESA

The regulations state that where a person was in receipt of a contributory ESA award, that award is stopped due to reaching the 365 day time limit and the person suffers a financial disadvantage, then s/he will be entitled to a supplementary payment.

Financial disadvantage is defined:

  • where the person was getting CESA and IRESA, her/his IRESA award is now lower than the previous award of CESA and IRESA
  • the person’s CESA has stopped and s/he does not make a claim for IRESA within 56 days
  • the person’s CESA has stopped and s/he has claimed IRESA within 56 days and the amount of IRESA is nil or lower than the amount of CESA previously in payment.

The amount of the supplementary payment will be equivalent to what the person was previously receiving in CESA, taking into account any IRESA s/he is receiving. If a person later becomes entitled to IRESA or a higher amount of IRESA, the supplementary payment is reduced accordingly. If s/he becomes entitled to CESA, the supplementary payment stops completely.

The supplementary payments start on the day after the CESA ceased or the day after the decision on the IRESA claim if one is made (whichever is later) and continues for one year or until 31 March 2020 (which comes first). The person must continue to have limited capability for work throughout the period in order to continue to be entitled to the supplementary payment.

Supplementary payment for those affected by the benefit cap

In the Law Centre's news item on the benefit cap, we had explained the specific mitigations which would apply for Northern Ireland. The Welfare Supplementary Payments Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016 now make provision for this in regulation 4.

Regulation 4 provides that where a person’s Housing Benefit is reduced due to the benefit cap and the person (or her/his partner) resides with and is responsible for a child or qualifying young person, s/he will be entitled to a supplementary payment equal to the reduction in Housing Benefit. The payment is made directly to the landlord where the Housing Benefit award is normally paid direct to the landlord. This protection continues until 31 March 2020.

Further regulations which will deal with the other mitigations are expected later this year.

Download the Welfare Supplementary Payments Regulations and their explanatory memorandum here, published with permission from the Department for Social Development.



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