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

Issue in Focus: Cost of Living

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.

Cost of Living Support: NIdirect


Cost of Living (Means Tested) Payments

The low income Cost of Living Payment of £650 is being paid in two instalments of £326 and £324. Everyone who was entitled should have received the first payment. However, to receive the second instalment, those entitled must be in receipt of (i.e. actually being paid) a relevant qualifying benefit on the second “qualifying day”.

Therefore, claimants should not assume that just because they got a first payment, they are guaranteed to receive a second payment.

Advice NI has engaged with DfC and we understand that the Government has not yet announced the qualifying day to get the second payment of £324, although the legislation states that this must be no later than 31 October 2022.

Social Security (Additional Payments) Act 2022 (legislation.gov.uk)


Energy Price Guarantee

Statement from:  Jacob Rees-Mogg, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy:

The Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) which will give people certainty with their bills. The EPG will apply from 1 October and will discount the unit cost for gas and electricity use. This guarantee, which includes the temporary suspension of green levies, means that from the 1st October a typical household will pay no more than £2500 per year for each of the next two years… It comes in addition to the £400 Energy Bill Support Scheme.

The scheme will start on the 1st October 2022, when Ofgem’s new price cap is due to come into effect. The new guarantee will apply to households in Great Britain, with the same level of support made available to households in Northern Ireland.

Secretary of State for Business: Statement

The government has committed to providing the same support to households and businesses in Northern Ireland, as well as to ensuring that the existing Energy Bills Support Scheme is implemented in the same way in Northern Ireland as it is currently being delivered to households in Britain.

Government announces Energy Price Guarantee

Government outlines plans to help cut energy bills for businesses

Energy bills support factsheet


Chancellor's Mini Budget

BREAKING: Chancellor confirms U-turn on top rate of tax - Still no confirmation on social security benefit uprating in line with inflation.

  • Rules around universal credit tightened: Universal Credit Claimants who earn less than the equivalent of 15 hours a week at National Living Wage will be required to meet regularly with their Work Coach and take active steps to increase their earnings or face having their benefits reduced
  • Around 120,000 more people on Universal Credit to be asked to take steps to seek more work, or face having their benefits reduced
  • Jobseekers over 50 to be given extra time with work coaches to help them return to job market
  • Cut in basic rate of income tax to 19% from April 2023
  • National Insurance thresholds increased in July 2022. The 1.25 percentage point rise in National Insurance will be reversed from 6 November. Most employees will receive a cut to their National Insurance directly via payroll in their November pay, with some receiving it in December or January, depending on the complexity of their employer’s payroll software.

Mini Budget

Chancellor Statement

Rachel Reeves [Labour] response to Budget

National Insurance Increase Reversed

Mini-Budget response | Institute for Fiscal Studies (ifs.org.uk)
Kevin Higgins, Advice NI’s Head of Policy, stated:
‘The tragedy is that following the #minibudget2022 the Government is unlikely to have the bandwidth (financially or politically) to (i) provide adequate support for poorer families; (ii) react to adverse circs eg escalation of war in Ukraine. Locked-in to tax cuts for the rich.’

The Women’s Budget Group [WBG] noted:

  • Around 80% of those who benefit from the nearly £2.4bn a year spent cutting the 45% tax rate will be men.
  • 77% of workers who earn too little to pay income tax [so will gain nothing from the nearly £5.3bn a year spent cutting the basic rate] are women.

WBG Mini Budget Response


Open Letter on the Cost of Living Crisis in Northern Ireland

Advice NI, NICVA and 100 organisations have asked for the Executive to be urgently re-formed:

Cost of Living: Open Letter


Government Response: Cost of Living

The Work and Pensions Committee has published the Government’s response to its report on the cost of living and the support measures available for people claiming benefits and the state pension. The report called on the Government to put on hold automatic repayments from benefits. The Committee also called for the DWP to work to increase the speed with which changes can be made to legacy benefit and state pension rates, with the uprating mechanism for benefits having fallen out of step with spiralling inflation.

The Government response states that pausing deductions would not necessarily be in the best interests of claimants and that there are no plans to change the uprating period.

Govt Response: Cost of Living Report.


Increase of Winter Fuel Payment

New regulations have been issued in Northern Ireland that provide for an increase in the winter fuel payment. In force from 19 September 2022, the Social Fund Winter Fuel Payment (Temporary Increase) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2022 (SR.No.215/2022) modify the Social Fund Winter Fuel Payment Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000 to provide for a temporary increase in winter fuel payments for the 2022/2023 winter.

Making provision in relation to Northern Ireland corresponding to that made in Great Britain by SI.No.813/2022, the regulations respond to the government's announcement on 26 May 2022 that a 'Pensioner Cost of Living Payment' of £300 per household will be paid with the winter fuel payment in 2022/2023.

Social Fund Winter Fuel Payment (Temporary Increase) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2022


Support for Households in Northern Ireland

TLDR: NI Energy Price Guarantee will offer households same level of gas and electricity bill support as equivalent scheme in GB
- £400 discount on bills through NI Energy Bills Support Scheme (NI EBSS)

The Energy Price Guarantee for households in GB, under which a typical household will pay on average £2,500 a year on their energy bill for the next two years from 1 October. The scheme limits the price suppliers can charge customers for units of gas and electricity... The guarantee supersedes the existing price cap and is expected to save the average household £1,000 a year based on current energy prices from October. It also comes in addition to the announced £400 energy bills discount for all households.

The Business Secretary also confirmed equivalent support for households in Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Energy Price Guarantee will offer households the same level of gas and electricity bill support as the equivalent scheme in Great Britain. Households in Northern Ireland will also receive a £400 discount on bills through the Northern Ireland Energy Bills Support Scheme (NI EBSS), the same support as is available in Great Britain.

For the Energy Price Guarantee, the scheme will still work through electricity and gas bills. The scheme will provide households in Northern Ireland with equivalent financial support with their electricity and gas bills as for those in Great Britain. There is no need to take any action to receive this support. This will take effect from November, but the government will ensure households receive support so they will see the same benefit overall as those households in GB, backdating support for October bills through bills from November.

The government also announced today further details on the separate Energy Bills Support Scheme (EBSS) to ensure that the £400 discount to households starting from October will also be available to the 1% of households who would not otherwise have received this support.

[Re: Home Heating Oil]: The government will also provide an additional payment of £100 to households across the UK who are not able to receive support for their heating costs through the Energy Price Guarantee. This might be because they live in an area of the UK that is not served by the gas grid and is to compensate for the rising costs of alternative fuels such as heating oil.

Government Support: Energy

Stormont Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said he did not believe the offer of £100 of oil would "cut it in any way, shape or form" and revealed he had not been made aware of the plan prior to its announcement.

Home Heating Oil £100 Payment


Consumer Council: Help and Support for Energy Videos

In partnership with the Department for the Economy and the Utility Regulator, the Consumer Council has created a number of information videos to provide energy advice and support. The videos outline practical steps that can be taken to help ease the impact of rising every prices.



Changes to Budgeting Loan Requirements

New regulations remove the requirement that budgeting loan awards are agreed in writing before a payment is released. In force from 12 October 2022, the Social Fund (Budgeting Loans) (Applications and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2022 (SR.No.222/2022) replace the Social Fund (Applications and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2008 (SR.No.357/2015) which are revoked.

'The purpose of this instrument is to remove the requirement for a Social Fund budgeting loan applicant to notify their agreement to the terms and conditions of the loan in writing before the monies can be released. The intention is that applicants will be able to give their agreement by telephone.

This instrument also addresses the fact that crisis loans and community care grants no longer exist. These regulations replace the Social Fund (Applications and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2008, which are revoked, to reflect the fact that budgeting loans are the only remaining element of social fund payments made under section 134(1)(b) of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits (Northern Ireland) Act 1992.'


Social Policy Campaign News

Advice NI Policy Priorities

Advice NI Manifesto | Advice NI


Advice NI Social Policy Briefing Paper: Move to Universal Credit

Advice NI Social Policy Briefing Paper: Move to Universal Credit | Advice NI


Housing Rights Policy Priorities for new NI Assembly Mandate 2022 - 2027

Housing Rights Policy Priorities 2022-27


NICVA Impact Practice Network

NICVA launched its new programme of support on impact practice in the Summer 2022, and with it we are proud to facilitate the formation on a new Impact Practice Network. This will provide an opportunity to share good practice, learn together, complement work rather than duplicate and when required have a unified voice in terms of impact. The Network will be of most benefit to those who:

  • Work or volunteer in the voluntary, community or social enterprise sectors, and
  • Be responsible for or involved with impact practice and
  • Have impact practice experience that you are open to sharing with others 

For more information and to sign up to the first meeting:
Invitation to join a New Impact Practice Network in Northern Ireland


Real Living Wage Increases to £10.90 in UK

This is a 10.1% increase in real Living Wage, the largest year-on-year rise. The new rates are now worth almost £3,000 more per year in the UK than the minimum wage.

The new Living Wage rates and the ‘National Living Wage’ - know the difference:

Unlike the Government minimum wage (‘National Living Wage’ for over 23s - £9.50) the real Living Wage is the only wage rate independently calculated based on rising living costs. A full-time worker earning the new, real Living Wage would earn £2,730 a year more than a worker earning the current government minimum (NLW), and £1,950 more than their current pay.

Living Wage Increase

Information Resources

Universal Credit and Students

With students arriving at University to commence a new academic year, the Advice NI Policy & Information team has published an information briefing for advisers covering Universal Credit eligibility for students.

As the briefing explains, most students will not be entitled to Universal Credit, as it is one of the basic conditions of entitlement that the claimant is ‘not receiving education’. This largely reflects the rules that applied to the legacy benefits being replaced by Universal Credit. However, income replacement benefits such as Universal Credit do not duplicate the support provided by the student finance system, and as a result exceptions are made where students have additional needs that warrant extra support from the welfare system. The briefing outlines the regulations that apply in this regard, and identifies where students may be able to claim Universal Credit while studying. The briefing also covers the treatment of student income when calculating an award of Universal Credit, as this can be a further barrier to entitlement.

Universal Credit: Students and Student Income


LHA Exemptions for Abuse and Slavery Victims

New legislation has been issued in Northern Ireland that provides for exemption from the local housing allowance (LHA) shared accommodation rate for victims of domestic abuse and victims of modern slavery.

In force from 1 October 2022, the Housing Benefit and Universal Credit (Victims of Domestic Abuse and Victims of Modern Slavery) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2022 (SR.No.211/2022) introduce amendments - equivalent to those made in Great Britain by SI.No.942/2022 - to the Housing Benefit Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 and the Universal Credit Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016.

LHA Abuse & Slavery exemptions


No Access to HB & SPC for Foreign Nationals

New statutory rule removes exception that allowed those from specified European countries to claim housing benefit and state pension credit before five years of lawful residence in the UK.

In force from 15 September 2022, the Social Security (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2022 (SR.No.202/2022) amend the Social Security (Immigration and Asylum) Consequential Amendments Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000. This will not impact on those benefits which are already in payment and will only take effect for new claims to housing benefit and state pension credit from 15 September 2022 onwards.



SSP & Covid

New legislation has been issued that enables N.I. claimants to continue to be able to claim statutory sick pay (SSP) where their absence from work is related to Covid-19.

Made on 25 August 2022, the Coronavirus Act 2020 (Extension of Provisions Relating to Statutory Sick Pay) (No.2) Order (Northern Ireland) 2022 (SR.No.205/2022) revokes and re-enacts the provisions of SR.No.151/2022 [that extend the expiry date of section 44 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 by six months to 24 September 2022] to allow SSP when someone is sick or self-isolating from Covid-19 in support of current Public Health Guidance in N.I.

SSP & Covid new Reg


Changes to UC Work-Related Requirements

The Universal Credit (Administrative Earnings Threshold) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2022 have been published and came into force from Monday 26 September 2022. The legislation is about changes to work-related requirements and amends regulation 97(14) specifically of the UC Regs 2016, which defines the Administrative Earnings Threshold above which work search requirements should not be imposed. From now on the threshold will only apply to single claimants earning the equivalent of 12 hours per week at National Minimum Wage, or couples the equivalent of 19 hours per week at National Minimum Wage.

Rightsnet advise that, in bare monetary terms, this means an increase in the Administrative Earnings Threshold from £355 to £494 per month for single claimants and from £567 to £782 per month for couples. The associated Explanatory Memorandum estimates something of the order of 2,130 claimants not currently subject to work-related requirements will be brought under the ‘Intensive Work Search regime’ as a result of these changes. As a consequence, they will have to agree a new Claimant Commitment and appropriate work search requirements with a work coach. The Department has also published a short memo for decision makers.

We engaged with the Department about the application of the changes, and Universal Credit management have informed us that a supportive, reasonable and flexible approach will be adopted on the basis of updated internal guidance for work coaches. Staff will be reminded to consider vulnerability and be reasonable and flexible when developing claimant commitments.

This amendment was in progress prior to the Chancellor’s announcement in the 'mini budget', which we expect will push the AET up further when the relevant legislative action is taken, so look out for further updates in future editions of Think.


PIP Statistics

PSU have compiled statistics on the following within PIP:

  • Registered Claims
  • Cleared Claims
  • Clearance Time
  • Awards
  • Claims in Payment
  • Reassessed DLA claims
  • Mandatory Reconsiderations

PIP Statistics May 22


The Money & Mental Health Policy Institute: Paper on Safeguarding and Managed Migration

The MMH Policy Institute has published a paper on a fit-for-purpose managed migration process: safeguarding claimants with mental health problems in the move to Universal Credit. This paper explores people with mental health problems’ experiences of ‘managed migration’ – the government’s process of moving people from legacy benefits to Universal Credit (UC).  Analysis identifies the barriers that may be faced by claimants with mental health problems during this process – such as reduced concentration, difficulty with communication and challenges in advocating for oneself – which are putting many people at risk of failing to complete a claim, and at risk of being cut off from their benefits all together.

MMH Institute Paper: Safeguarding and Managed Migration


Northern Ireland Family Resource Survey

This series provides annual summaries of the key findings from the Northern Ireland Family Resources Survey. The reports include information on income (and sources of income), housing tenure, caring needs and responsibilities, disability, pension participation, occupation, employment, savings and investments.

NI Family Resource Survey


Northern Ireland Poverty Bulletin

The Northern Ireland poverty bulletin uses data collected from the Family Resources Survey to provide estimates of the proportion and number of children, working age adults and pensioners living in low income households in Northern Ireland.

The bulletin uses household disposable incomes, adjusted for household size and composition, as a proxy for material living standards, or more precisely for the level of consumption of goods and services that people could attain given the disposable income of the household in which they live.

NI Poverty Bulletin


Food poverty Research Briefing: Households, food banks and free school meals

In 2020/21, 4.2 million people (6%) were in food poverty, including 9% of children. This paper provides statistics on household food insecurity, food bank usage and free school meals in the UK, and tracks the impact of rising living costs.

Food Poverty Research Briefing

Funding Opportunities

National Lottery Funding

The #PeoplesProjects is back and community projects across the UK can now apply for the chance to win £70k in #NationalLottery funding and be part of a national campaign.

This year community organisations have the chance to apply for National Lottery funding of up to £70,000. Looking for the best and most imaginative ideas from organisations that are already doing great work in their local community. Shortlisted groups will take part in a national campaign, with the winners being decided by public vote.

Deadline for applications is 12 noon on Friday 7 October 2022, or when we have reached our limit for applications for this fund if that’s sooner.

The People's Projects Funding Application

NI Assembly Questions

Social Security Debt Payments

Mr Andy Allen MBE AQW 2806/22-27

To ask the Minister for Communities whether she will suspend social security debt payments in response to the cost of living crisis.

The cost-of-living crisis is having major impact, particularly on those who are already struggling financially. I am deeply frustrated that the continued absence of a functioning Executive and agreed Executive budget prevents additional measures being introduced.

I am committed that my Department will do all it can to support those experiencing hardship, and all options are being explored to provide both immediate and medium to longer term interventions.

Parliamentary Questions

Managed Migration

Peter Aldous, Conservative UIN 49117

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, If she will publish the key performance indicators her Department will use to monitor the performance of the Universal Credit Managed Migration programme.

Victoria Prentis, Conservative

Formal performance monitoring is not appropriate to a discovery phase where the aim is to learn what works best, rather than achieve a specific volume of cases.


Peter Aldous, Conservative UIN 49116

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, when she expects (a) 10,000, (b) 100,000, (c) 250,000, (d) 500,000 and (e) 1,000,000 legacy benefit claimants to have been issued with a migration notice to move to Universal Credit.

Victoria Prentis, Conservative

In May 2022 we started a multi-location approach across the country with a small number of claimants, being issued with migration notices. We will continue to develop our processes and systems to ensure the transition to Universal Credit works as smoothly as possible before we proceed to scale the migration process. Government is committed to ensuring the final phase of Universal Credit is rolled out safely and is responsibly delivered by the end of 2024.


Social Security Debt Payments

Charlotte Nichols, Labour UIN 45229

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, if she will make it her policy to pause deductions from benefit payments which aim to recover a claimant's debts.

David Rutley, Conservative

Whilst there are currently no plans to suspend recovery of benefit debts, DWP remains committed to working with anyone who is struggling with benefit debt repayments.

In April 2021, we reduced the cap on standard deductions to 25% of a claimant’s Universal Credit Standard Allowance. This followed an earlier reduction from 40% to 30% in October 2019.

Where a person feels they cannot afford the proposed rate of recovery, and the debt has not arisen as a result of fraud, they are encouraged to contact DWP’s Debt Management team to discuss a temporary reduction in their rate of repayment.


Universal Credit & Cost of Living Payments

Baroness Lister of Burtersett, Labour UIN HL2136

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their estimate of the number of Universal Credit claimants who did not qualify for the first cost of living additional payment because of the way their wages were paid during the qualifying month.

Baroness Stedman-Scott, Conservative

We do not currently hold this information. We have deliberately kept the rules for these payments as simple as possible. This is the only way we can ensure that we can develop the systems and processes required to make these payments.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to distinguish between those that have had a permanent increase to their earnings, and those whose earnings are temporarily fluctuating. If a UC claimant’s income subsequently falls, these claimants will return to having a positive award after the cut-off date and may be eligible for the second Cost of Living Payment, worth £324.


Energy Bills

Sammy Wilson:

Does the Prime Minister accept that with 150 years’ worth of gas under the ground in Great Britain it is absolute madness to turn our back on that resource at a time when people are facing huge energy bills? Will she also explain how she intends to deliver the support that she is talking about in Northern Ireland?

The Prime Minister:

I do agree with the right hon. Gentleman and I am coming to the point about shale gas in a minute. I can assure him that this policy will apply in Northern Ireland and those benefits will be open to the people of Northern Ireland, as part of the United Kingdom.


Bereavement Support Payments: Co-habitation

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour UIN 49675

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps her Department is taking to ensure that the surviving partner of cohabitating couples with children are informed of upcoming changes to the eligibility for Bereavement Support Payments.

Victoria Prentis, Conservative

We are working to lay before Parliament the draft Remedial Order extending Bereavement Support Payment and Widowed Parent’s Allowance to surviving cohabitees with dependent children. Should the Order be approved, we plan to use a variety of approaches to raise awareness of this change, including updating GOV.UK and working with external stakeholders to ensure maximum reach.


Work Capability Assessment

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour UIN 49674

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what (a) qualifications and (b) training courses are required to be undertaken to become an Assessor for Work Capability Assessments.

Victoria Prentis, Conservative

All Healthcare Professionals (HCP) must have the following qualifications and experience:

  • they are an Occupational Therapist, Nurse (level 1), Physiotherapist or Doctor
  • they are fully registered with the relevant regulatory body (doctors must have a licence to practice)
  • the licensing body has not placed restrictions on the healthcare professional’s registration (unless they relate to disability), in individual cases this may be waivered subject to agreement with the department
  • they have at least 1 years’ post full registration experience (General Medical Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council, Health and Care Professions Council or European Economic Area equivalent) or for non-European Union graduates 1 years’ post full registration experience unless otherwise agreed on an individual basis by the department.

HCPs undergo training in Disability Assessment Medicine which includes three distinct areas:

  • Generic training - principles of disability analysis, professional standards (including manner and behaviour) and multi-cultural awareness
  • Training to undertake benefit-specific assessments - modular training with competency testing at each stage and an approval process
  • Scrutiny / file work training - providing advice to the decision maker, theory, and casework exercises, followed by supported individual casework.

The training also includes theory training in a classroom setting, supervised practical training, and a demonstration of understanding as assessed by quality audit.

Before HCPs can carry out assessments, they must go through a formal approval process to ensure they meet the department’s requirements in relation to experience, skills, and competence. Failure to demonstrate that they have reached the necessary standards, or to co-operate with feedback and/or retraining, will result in approval being refused.