Welfare Reform Update - December 2019

It’s been a busy few months on the advice line. People concerned with the Welfare Mitigations Cliff Edge due at the end of March 2020. Something that could affect up to 35,000 households in Northern Ireland. See below for some recent cases from the Welfare Reform Team. 

Case Study One:

A client contacted the Welfare Changes Helpline in September this year as she had been struggling to make a Universal Credit since April

She was told she did not have the right to reside in Northern Ireland and therefore didn’t have the right to claim Universal Credit.

Since April, the client had been living on just Child Benefit and, since the end of September, some wages from a part-time job.

The client was in rent arrears and had her housing association has begun eviction proceedings against her.

Advice NI liaised with the Universal Credit decision-making team on behalf of this client. They were able to get her Universal Credit claim up and running and backdated to the 2nd September. The housing association then stopped eviction proceedings and put in place a reasonable repayment plan for the client’s arrears. 

The client was very grateful for the assistance in getting her Universal Credit payment. She had felt in a hopeless situation before she called the Welfare Reform Changes Helpline.

Although she had struggled since April, within two weeks of her calling the Welfare Changes Helpline her Universal Credit claim was accepted and in payment, putting her in a much better financial position and enabling her to keep her home.

Case Study Two:

Advice NI were contacted by a client who had recently moved from Scotland to Northern Ireland. This was a widowed woman in her 40s, living with two non-dependent children; a 19 year-old unemployed daughter and a 21 year-old son with developmental delay who received DLA high rate care. 

Upon making a claim for Universal Credit in Northern Ireland, this client was informed that a £73.89 per month non-dependent deduction would be taken from her housing element for her son. The client was distraught as this deduction would cause her even more financial hardship following the expense of uprooting from Scotland to Northern Ireland. Our adviser informed the client that a non-dependent deduction should not be taken from Universal Credit for someone who is receiving DLA middle or high rate care. 

The client subsequently contacted her work coach who conceded that a mistake had been made, only to then inform her that the deduction was in fact correct but it was actually for her daughter, not her son. This was also incorrect as no non-dependent deduction is taken from Universal Credit for someone under the age of 21. 

Advice NI’s adviser asked the client to leave a note on her journal giving consent for the adviser to speak to Universal Credit on her behalf. The adviser called Universal Credit to advise them of their mistakes and the stress and exasperation this was causing the client. The Universal Credit adviser had to look up the specific regulations but then conceded that Advice NI was correct. He advised that he would email a case manager and request that the deduction be removed.

The client contacted Advice NI a few days later to confirmed that the deduction had been removed.