'THINK' June 2022 Edition


The Advice NI Policy & Information team is delighted to publish this June 2022 edition of our policy eNewsletter ‘THINK’.

Legislation Updates

Cost of Living Support

A cost of living support package has been put in place for 2022 that includes one-off payments to those on income related benefits, disabled claimants and pensioners. These payments are intended to provide support to you with the current rise in the cost of living.


You may be eligible for one, or more, of these Cost of Living Support Payments if you get certain benefits or tax credits. You do not need to do anything to apply. If you are eligible, you’ll be paid automatically in the same way you receive your normal benefit payments. These additional cost of living payments are not taxable and will not affect any of the benefits or tax credits you get.

Not entitled to Cost of Living Support payment

People who get the following benefits only, will not be eligible for a cost of Living Support payment:

  • Carers Allowance
  • New-Style Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • New-Style Employment and Support Allowance
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
  • Low income (means tested) benefits

You may get a Cost of Living Payment of £650, paid in two instalments, if you get any of the following:

  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit

The first payment of £326 will be made from July 2022 and you will need to have been entitled to one of the following:

  • Universal Credit for an assessment period that ended in the period 26 April 2022 to 25 May 2022
  • Income-based JSA, income-related ESA, income support or pension credit for any day in the period 26 April 2022 to 25 May 2022

The second payment of £324 will be made in the autumn to those with a qualifying entitlement on the second qualifying day, which will not be later than 31 October 2022. If you have a joint claim with a partner, you will get one Cost of Living Payment, paid in 2 lump sums from July 2022 and again in the autumn, if eligible. You will not get a payment if you have already received a Cost of Living Payment because you were entitled to tax credits. If you get New-Style Employment and Support Allowance or New-Style Jobseeker’s Allowance, you will not be entitled to the Cost of Living Payment, unless you get Universal Credit or a disability benefit as well. However, if you also receive a qualifying disability benefit, you may get an additional Disability Cost of Living Payment.

Tax Credits

You may get a Cost of Living Payment of £650, paid in two instalments, if you have an award for either of the following:

  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit

The first payment will be made from autumn 2022. To be eligible you must have received a payment, or an annual award of at least £26, of tax credits on any day in the period 26 April 2022 to 25 May 2022. The second payment of £324 will be made in the winter to those with a qualifying entitlement on the second qualifying day, which will not be later than 31 October 2022. If you have a joint claim with a partner, you will get one Cost of Living Payment, paid in 2 lump sums in autumn 2022 and in the winter, if eligible. You will not get a payment if you have already received a low income (means tested) Cost of Living Payment. However, if you also receive a qualifying disability benefit, you may get an additional Disability Cost of Living Payment.

Disability benefits

You may get a lump sum payment of £150 if you get any of the following:

  • Attendance Allowance
  • Constant Attendance Allowance
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment
  • War Pension Mobility Supplement

You will need to have been entitled to one of these qualifying benefits on 25 May 2022 to get the payment. You will get the payment in September 2022. If you also receive a qualifying low income (means tested) benefit or tax credits, you may get an additional Cost of Living Payment.

Help for Pensioners

Pensioner households will receive an extra £300 Pensioner Cost of Living Payment. If you are entitled to a Winter Fuel Payment for winter 2022 to 2023, you will get this extra £300 paid with your normal payment from November 2022. You will get this Pensioner Cost of Living Payment as well as any Cost of Living Payment you may receive with your qualifying benefit or tax credits. People will be eligible for this payment if they are over State Pension age (aged 66 or above) between 19 – 25 September 2022.

NI Direct: Cost Living Support


£12.6m Summer Holiday Food Grant

The summer holiday food grant will run from 1 July to 31 August 2022. It will provide financial assistance to families whose children are entitled to a free school meal during term time and eligible at the end of June 2022. Families will receive £13.50 per week for each entitled child.

Education NI: McIlveen Announces £12.6m Summer Holiday Food Grant


Additional £1million to Help With Cost of School Uniforms

The school uniform grant will be increased by 20% to help support low income families, Education Minister Michelle McIlveen has announced. The grant is designed to assist families in need with a contribution towards the cost of purchasing school uniforms.

Education NI: McIlveen Announces Additional £1m Help Cost School Uniforms


Fit Notes Regulations

In force from 1 July 2022, the Social Security (Medical Evidence) and Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2022 (SR.No.182/2022) amend the Social Security (Medical Evidence) Regulations (Northern Ireland)1976 and the Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1985 to expand the categories of people who can sign fit notes to include registered nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists. The explanatory memorandum states: 'Currently only doctors can certify fit notes which, is a barrier to the most relevant healthcare professional engaging in work and health conversations, is not reflective of modern ways of working in healthcare and leads to unnecessary bureaucracy, particularly in general practice. By extending certification to a wider group of healthcare professionals we are better enabling relevant healthcare professionals to undertake health and work conversations and certify and issue fit notes without having to refer patients to their doctor.' The new regulations make provision in Northern Ireland corresponding to that in Great Britain provided for by SI.No.630/2022.

Legislation: The Social Security and Statutory Sick Pay Regulations 2022


State Retirement Pension Correction Exercise

NI position, confirmed by DfC: In NI the State Pension correction exercise was completed, as planned, by the end of May. Of the 5168 cases identified on the DWP scan as potentially impacted, which were subsequently reviewed by a dedicated team of staff within the Pension Centre, 923 cases were found to have had errors. These cases have since been corrected, with impacted customers notified of their revised SP entitlement. The Dpt has paid £6.268m in arrears to affected customers as a result of this correction exercise.

Gov.uk: State Pension Correction Exercise Update


State Retirement Pension Legacy IT system Uprating: Graduated Retirement Benefit

This is a separate issue to the pensions issue above: Millions of people have received the wrong pension for decades because of government IT failures. These errors occurred because of issues with the State Pension legacy IT system annual uprating of Graduated Retirement Benefit (GRB). DWP have advised that most payments are correct, however over time this can result in very small differences in the amounts of GRB paid; the vast majority of over and underpayments are 1p or 2p per week. DWP are investigating this issue and potential remedies.

BBC: Millions Receive Wrong Amount 'for decades'

State Retirement Pension Case Study

Client is aged 85, widowed and lives in her own home. Client is in receipt of her state pension, and three private pensions. Client does not have any debts.  Client has received a number of letters from HMRC regarding Tax owed and contacted the Omagh Independent Advice Services (OIAS) Debt Adviser for some advice because she did not understand the letters. Client received 7 letters from HMRC over the space of 3 days in May of this year, detailing different amounts owed from the tax years 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21.  The Debt adviser rang HMRC who confirmed that £4,884 was outstanding-there was £1197 owed for the year 2018-19, £1197 for 2020-21 and £2490 for the year 2020-21. When the Debt Adviser rang the client to provide an update, the client informed that she was contacted by the Pension Service re. her State Pension to say that she has been underpaid from 2005 since her husband passed away. Client received a letter stating that the total sum she is owed is £87911.77.  Her weekly pension has also now changed from £82.05 to £126.34. 

OIAS Debt Adviser referred the client to Advice NIs Tax & Benefits Service to get specialist support re. the tax outstanding. The Advice Tax & Benefits Service team asked HMRC to review the clients record, and requested that they set aside the amounts as the client was not aware of the issue. HMRC reviewed the record and confirmed the client owed £5024.80 in tax outstanding. HMRC decided that they are still going to collect the tax outstanding, because from their side of things they (HMRC) fulfilled their responsibilities at the time by collecting the correct amount of tax and issuing the correct tax codes.


Reform of the Consumer Credit Act

UK government commits to reform the Consumer Credit Act – which regulates all credit card purchases and personal loans. Plans to modernise the act will cut costs for businesses and simplify rules for consumers. A consultation on the direction of reform is expected to be published by the end of the year:

Gov.uk: UK Commits to Reform of the Consumer Credit Act


Online Portal Open for Recognition Payments

The Department of Health is reminding social care Personal Assistants who worked during the pandemic to apply for a special recognition payment and has also confirmed that those in the independent sector whose employers have ceased trading can now also apply. The online portal which enables personal assistants to apply for the recognition payment will remain open until 31 July 2022. In addition, a new online portal is now also available for individuals employed in the Independent Sector (Care Homes, Domiciliary Care and Supported Living Schemes) between 17 March 2020 and 31 January 2021 whose employer is no longer in operation and who missed out on previous phases of the scheme.

Applying online is the easiest and most efficient way for eligible groups to receive the payment. A paper based application form is also available for those who prefer and a dedicated helpline is also in place to support applicants.

As with recognition payments to other health and social care workers, Personal Assistants and other eligible individuals will receive a pro rata payment of up to a maximum of £500, depending on the number of hours they work in an average week.

£58.9m has been paid out to 83,000 statutory employees in Health and Social Care. In addition, a total of over £16.6m has been distributed under Phase 1 of the scheme to independent sector care home and domiciliary care providers covering 28,470 individuals. Under Phase 2, over £4.2m has been paid out to 9,857 individuals. This phase is delivering the recognition payment to the remaining cohorts of staff previously approved including Personal Assistants and the remaining categories of independent sector staff.

Those eligible to receive the recognition payment must have been employed for a continuous four week period between 17 March 2020 and 31 January 2021 as a Personal Assistant. Eligible PAs will fall within one of the following categories:

  • Personal Assistants employed by Independent Living Fund recipients in NI;
  • Personal Assistants employed by the Thalidomide survivors in NI via the Thalidomide Health Grant;
  • Personal Assistants employed via direct payments from Health and Social Care Trusts (HSCTs);
  • Self-employed Personal Assistants.

Staff who worked in the independent sector (care home/domiciliary care/supported living) whose employer is no longer trading are eligible to apply for this payment if they were employed for a continuous 4 week period between 17 March 2020 and 31 January 2021.

Personal Assistants can apply online here and those in the independent sector whose employers have ceased trading can apply online here.

A dedicated helpline is also available from 10am – 12.30pm Monday to Friday for both groups. The helpline number is: 0800 170 13 50.

6. A full list of Frequently Asked Questions is available online here for PAs and here for those in the independent sector whose employers have ceased trading.

Policy and Information Officer Updates

Cost of Living Support

As the cost of living support package is being directed by the Westminster government, we in Northern Ireland are largely subject to the process as it is defined by DWP and the Treasury. For that reason, it is useful to be aware of the relevant information being provided by the UK government.

The administration of the cost of living payments will fall under the Social Security (Additional Payments) Bill, which is currently with the House of Lords, but presumably will pass without amendment or delay. The Bill refers directly to relevant Northern Ireland legislation, which means no further Stormont legislation will be needed. Guidance on the administration of the payments, including eligibility, is included in the government’s Cost of living support factsheet.

For further updates, keep a close eye on Advicelink, and in particular messages carrying the #help tag. We will publish a more detailed briefing covering the full range of support available in respect of the cost of living crisis towards the middle of July.


Move to UC

We have published the first in an intended series of briefings relating to managed migration to Universal Credit. The briefing covers the process in general terms and introduces advisers and claimants to the key issues that need to be taken into consideration ahead of the roll-out of Move to UC, such as transitional protection, while also considering which claimants might be better or worse off as a consequence of making the move.

Advice NI is urging claimants ‘not to gamble’ on moving before they need to do so, and this briefing provides detailed context for that advice.

The Department for Communities is currently conducting engagement with stakeholders in relation to ‘Move to UC’, so we will have much more to share with you about the way the process will be managed in Northern Ireland in the coming months.

More information is available here.

BBC Radio Ulster On Your Behalf, Listen again here.
From 34.30


Support for Childcare Costs

At the end of last month we published an information briefing on support for childcare costs. The briefing was mainly prompted by consideration of changes to the regulations relating to claims for cross-border childcare costs through Universal Credit introduced in 2020. The briefing also includes extensive analysis of the range of support available and the best potential options for clients.

Thanks to Community Advice Fermanagh, Employers for Childcare and Border People for the role they played in making this briefing a possibility. One important update to note is that, thanks to changes to National Insurance introduced in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, the maximum annual savings for parents using Childcare Vouchers has increased from £933 to £969.

Parliamentary Questions

Risk Review

Kate Osamor, Labour UIN 14565

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, with reference to the Universal Credit Risk Review Team, whether a risk review can be initiated solely due to a claimant being identified by a computer system as being high risk, or whether a human will always make the final decision to commence a review.

David Rutley, Conservative

As set out in the Departments Personal Information Charter DWP does not use algorithms to replace human judgement. Risk indicators are determined by DWP agents and where a computer highlights a risk a DWP agent intervenes and reviews the claim. A DWP agent would take into account all circumstances/information before a final decision.


Universal Credit and Deductions

Jessica Morden, Labour UIN 11612

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what information is given to claimants on deductions from their benefits (a) when completing an online calculation to move to Universal Credit and (b) before moving to Universal Credit; and whether a person who receives a lower award after moving to Universal Credit is able to move back to legacy benefits in the event that deductions were not used in the calculation of their move to Universal Credit.

David Rutley, Conservative

We do not give prospective Universal Credit (UC) claimants personalised information on potential deductions from their benefits before moving to UC. This is because the Department only holds limited information about any potential debts a new claimant before a claim is made.

When considering a voluntary move to Universal Credit (as outlined in our recent publication(opens in a new tab)), claimants should check how outstanding debts they may have are recovered through universal credit. They can do this by using an independent benefits calculator and by seeking independent advice, such as through the Help to Claim Service.

Once claimants make a claim, they are not entitled to move back to legacy benefits. This reflects the overarching principle that Universal Credit will replace legacy benefits by the end of 2024.

Stephen Crabb, Conservative UIN 9855

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many households in receipt of Universal Credit and subject to deductions of their Standard Allowance who were (a) assessed and (b) not assessed to have (i) limited capability for work and (ii) limited capability for work and work-related activity had (A) up to five per cent, (B) between six and 10 per cent, (C) between 11 and 15 per cent, (D) between 16 and 20 per cent, (E) between 21 and 25 per cent and (F) more than 25 per cent of their Standard Allowance deducted in the most recent month for which data is available.

David Rutley, Conservative

The information requested for Universal Credit households with limited capability for work and work-related activity with deductions is provided in the attached spreadsheet.

Deductions are made for a number of reasons including to help claimants pay back rent arrears or debt to energy companies so they are not evicted and can heat their homes, as well as to pay court fines.

Chris Stephens, Scottish National Party UIN 17006

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many universal credit claims were subject to deductions in the most recent month for which data is available, broken down by parliamentary constituency; how much on average was deducted in each constituency; what the total sum was of deductions in each constituency; and what proportion of each of those sums was deducted to repay advance payments; and if she will make a statement.

David Rutley, Conservative

The Government recognises the importance of supporting the welfare of claimants who have incurred debt. We seek to balance recovery of debt against not causing hardship for claimants and their families. Processes are in place to ensure deductions are manageable, and customers can contact DWP Debt Management if they are experiencing financial hardship, to discuss a reduction in their rate of repayment or a temporary suspension, depending on their financial circumstances.

Since April 2021, we have reduced the normal maximum rate of deductions in Universal Credit from 40% to 25% of a claimant’s Standard Allowance. These positive measures were put in place to support claimants to manage financial difficulties

Advances are a claimant’s benefit entitlement paid early, allowing claimants to access 100% of their estimated Universal Credit payment upfront. They ensure nobody has to wait for a payment in Universal Credit and those who need it are able to receive financial support as soon as possible. Claimants can receive up to 100% of their estimated Universal Credit award if required, resulting in 25 payments over a 24-month period. This is not a debt.

The requested analysis of Universal Credit claims with a deduction in February 2022 by Parliamentary Constituency in Great Britain (GB) is provided in the separate spreadsheet.


Universal Credit and Carers

Sir Stephen Timms, Labour UIN 13029

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps her Department has taken to support unpaid carers applying for Universal Credit on behalf of people with complex disabilities undergoing the process of managed migration.

David Rutley, Conservative

We recently restarted work to design and deliver a service for people to move to Universal Credit. We are currently taking forward a discovery phase focussing on controlled, small volumes. During this phase we will seek to understand how best to support claimants when making their claim to Universal Credit, including where claimants receive additional support from people who are not their appointees to make their claim.

A variety of support is in place for those issued with migration notices, including for individuals with health conditions and disabilities. Our current support consists of:

  • A dedicated phoneline.
  • Further guidance on website
  • Specially trained staff in JCP’s and service centres who can identify local tailored support; and
  • Support through the Help to Claim


Universal Credit and Tax Credits

Stephen Timms, Labour UIN 6670

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, whether tax credit recipients who have more than £16,000 in savings will lose all their support on being migrated to Universal Credit after the one year grace period, or whether they will be entitled to further transitional protection.

David Rutley, Conservative

Tax Credit claimants will have any capital they hold above £16,000 disregard for up to 12 months once moved to Universal Credit as part of the managed migration process. This means that the normal rules for the treatment of capital, that would usually prevent them claiming UC, will not be applied during this period.
Normal UC rules for capital will still be applied to the capital they hold between £6,001 and £16,000. If their capital falls to £16,000 or below during the 12 months, then the disregard is not re-applied, should their capital rise above £16,000 again.

After 12 months, the disregard on tax credit claimants’ income that permits them to claim UC if their capital exceeds £16,000 will cease to apply and, like all claimants with capital over £16,000, they will not be entitled to Universal Credit.


Food Banks

Lord Jones of Cheltenham, Liberal Democrat UIN HL379

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to introduce measures in the current parliament to eliminate the need for food banks.

Baroness Stedman-Scott, Conservative

Foodbanks are independent, charitable organisations and the Department for Work and Pensions does not have any role in their operation.

The Government is committed to a sustainable, long-term approach to tackling poverty and supporting people on lower incomes. We will spend over £242bn through the welfare system in 2022/23 including £108bn on people of working age and over £134 billion on pensioners. Of the total amount, around £64 billion will be spent on supporting disabled people and people with health conditions in Great Britain.

We understand the pressures people are facing with the cost of living and have taken action to support and help families worth over £22 billion in 2022-23. The recently announced package of support worth £15 billion to help households with rising energy bills, brings total government support to £37 billion.
Government is also providing an additional £500 million from October to help households with the cost of essentials, bringing the total funding for this support to £1.5 billion. In England, £421m will be used to extend the Household Support Fund (October 2022 – March 2023). At least a third of the extension funding (£140m) will be spent on pensioners and at least another third (£140m) will be spent on families with children.



Virginia Crosbie, Conservative UIN 10043

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment she has made of the potential merits of not requiring autistic people to undertake reassessments for Personal Independence Payments in the context of that condition not having a cure.

Chloe Smith, Conservative

Entitlement to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is assessed on the basis of the needs arising from a health condition or disability, rather than the health condition or disability itself. Award rates and their durations are set on an individual basis, based on the claimant’s needs and the likelihood of those needs changing. Award reviews allow for the correct rate of PIP to remain in payment, including where needs have increased as a consequence of a congenital, degenerative or progressive condition.

We announced in the Shaping Future Support: Health and Disability Green Paper that we will test a new Severe Disability Group (SDG) so that those with severe and lifelong conditions can benefit from a simplified process to access PIP, ESA and UC without needing to go through a face-to-face assessment or frequent reassessments. We will consider the test results once complete to influence thinking on the next stages of this work.



Bambos Charalambous, Labour UIN 6872

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what types of information and guidance are being given to support new claimants of Personal Independence Payment who may experience a delay in payment; what format that information and guidance is in; and how often it is communicated to affected people.

Chloe Smith, Conservative

During the initial PIP registration call, the claims process is fully explained. Claimants are informed what will happen next and given a realistic indication of timescales.

Service Delivery colleagues have been provided with information and guidance to support claimants who call the Department who might be experiencing a delay receiving their PIP award. Information includes verbally advising the claimant of the average time it is taking to make a decision. Those who express concerns about wait times, or need further support, are signposted to other benefits or local organisations who may be able to assist.

PIP have introduced automated SMS messages, which are issued at various points in the claim journey based on triggers and events. We are introducing further SMS on 26/05/22 which will provide a more regular update throughout the process, until the decision is made. The SMS will be issued to anyone who hasn’t opted out of the SMS communication and has a recorded valid mobile number.