Advice NI warning regarding benefit changes affecting thousands of households across Northern Ireland

Advice NI has today issued a warning to families and children regarding significant changes which will impact on thousands of households across Northern Ireland.
In the summer budget of 2015, the government proposed that support for children through Tax Credits and Universal Credit would be limited to two children from April 2017 in respect of new claims and new births. So this week, from Thursday 6th April, Child Tax Credit will not be payable for a third (or more) child(ren) unless certain exceptions apply.

Later this month, from Monday 17th of April, lone parents who have a youngest child aged 5 or over, will no longer be able to claim Income Support solely on the grounds of being a lone parent. This is a further implementation of the welfare reform changes which saw lone parents with a youngest child aged 6 or older losing their Income Support entitlement in January. Many will therefore need to claim Jobseekers Allowance.

Speaking ahead of the changes, Kevin Higgins of Advice NI said that parents needed to be aware of the changes, and recommended calling the independent welfare changes Helpline for further information on how the changes apply to them.

“Government’s 2 child policy will mean no additional financial support within Child Tax Credit, amounting to over £50 per week, for many babies born on or after 6th April. In Northern Ireland by 2020 it is envisaged that this cut in support will amount to £33m.

“Regarding the changes affecting lone parents with a youngest child aged 5 or over, our figures show that this change will affect around 2,000 lone parents across Northern Ireland. This means that lone parents claiming Jobseekers Allowance will be subject to the rules that apply to jobseekers and must show that they are actively seeking and available for work.

If you think you will be affected by these or any other welfare changes, then we can provide information, advice and support via the independent welfare changes Helpline on 0808 802 0020.”

There are exceptions to the 2-child policy including multiple births and more controversially the exception which requires women to prove that they conceived their 3rd or subsequent child as a result of rape to access child tax credit.

Regarding lone parents, it is recognised that from time to time lone parents will face circumstances that need special consideration to accommodate their needs and in such cases their Jobseeker’s Agreement can be tailored so that they are treated as being available for and actively seeking work.

An example of this would be where it would be considered unreasonable for a lone parent to make other arrangements for the care of their child, or if appropriate and affordable childcare was not available.
  • Advice NI is the umbrella body for the independent advice network in Northern Ireland, membership currently stands at over 60 organisations from across Northern Ireland;
  • The independent advice network dealt with over 263,000 enquiries in 2015/16 year;
  • The majority of enquiries were social security related;
  • Money & Debt issues accounted for 13% of enquiries;
  • Advisers represented at over 3,000 social security tribunals;
  • Advisers involved in Benefit Uptake work helped generate total additional benefits worth over £18 million;
If you would like to find out more about the work of independent advice agencies in your area or you would like to obtain copies of the various publications produced by Advice NI, please contact Advice NI, 1 Rushfield Avenue, Belfast; Telephone (028) 90 645919; E-mail; Website

For further information, please contact Barry Turley on 07734 256318