Benefits

There have been some changes to the benefit system as a result of COVID-19.

Appointments and Payments 

All appointments at Jobs and Benefits offices have been postponed. Nobody will have to visit Jobs and Benefits offices at any stage of making a new claim, except in exceptional circumstances.

If you're already receiving benefits, you will continue to receive payments. Payments will still be processed as usual.

The Department for Communities has put additional support in place to assist Post Office card account and HM Government Payment Exception Service customers who are unable to access their benefit or pension payments during the Coronavirus pandemic.

A single point of contact has been established within the Department’s ‘Make the Call’ team to receive referrals from the NI COVID19 Helpline or Post Office Ltd for immediate action.

The Department will offer a range of options including:

  • Switching customers to a bank account to allow the purchase of items over the phone or online
  • Setting up a permanent agent or appointee to collect their money on their behalf, or
  • Issuing a voucher payment via SMS/email to a trusted friend to collect their money for them.

The Make the Call team can be contacted by emailing makethecall@dfcni.gov.uk or phoning 0800 232 1271. The COVID-19 Community Helpline can be contacted by 0808 802 0020.

You do not need to attend any medical assessments during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, even if you do not have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). ​You will not be penalised as a result of a postponed appointment.

Carers Allowance

If you claim Carer's Allowance you will still be paid even if you have to temporarily stop caring as a result of either yourself or the person you care for having to self-isolate.

Emotional support will also be counted towards the care you provide for someone during the COVID-19 crisis.

Employment and Support Allowance

There is temporary removal of the seven waiting days if you are making a New Style ESA claim. If you need to self isolate you will be treated as being ill and do not need to go to a GP.

All appointments and assessments for ESA have been postponed and you will not be penalised as a result of a postponed appointment.

If you need to claim ESA or have a query you can contact the ESA centre.

Free School Meals

A Direct Payment Scheme has been set up to ensure families eligible for free school meals will receive direct payments into bank accounts during the period of term time school closures. 

Families will receive £2.70 per child per day for each day of term the schools are closed.  This money will be paid to families on a fortnightly basis.

Housing

Housing Benefit payments will continue as normal and anybody wishing to make a new claim or advise of a change in circumstances should phone the Housing Benefit number, 03448-920-902.
 
All public Housing Executive offices are closed but you can still get in touch by telephone:
  • 03448 920 900 – General enquiries.
  • 03448 920 901 – Repairs.
  • 03448 920 902 – Housing Benefit.
The repair service is restricted and will now only deal with emergency repairs e.g. gas leak, electrical fittings coming into contact with water, bare electrical wiring, overflowing sewage, broken external doors, burst pipes, burst storage tanks, electricity cuts, no heating in severely cold weather.  Repairs can be reported by telephone at 03448-920-901 or online at https://www.nihe.gov.uk/Transactions/Report-A-Repair

Jobseekers Allowance

If you are due to sign-on you are excused from signing.

From 30 March 2020 for the next three months, work search and work availability requirements will be removed for new and existing claims to Jobseekers’ Allowance.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

 All Personal Independence Payment (PIP) appointments at assessment centres have been postponed.

You can still make a new claim for PIP by contacting the PIP Centre.

Universal Credit

New claims to Universal Credit can still be made online with additional telephone support available via the Universal Credit Service Centre if you need help with a new claim.

If you're already claiming Universal Credit, tell your work coach in your online journal if you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). If you do not have an online account, you can call the Universal Credit Service Centre.

You’ll continue to receive your Universal Credit payments as normal.

If you’re working while claiming Universal Credit, your payment will be adjusted if you can no longer work due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Self-employed people can claim Universal Credit. From 6 April the requirements of the Minimum Income Floor have been temporarily relaxed. This change applies to all Universal Credit claimants and will last for the duration of the outbreak.

The Self-employment Income Support Scheme will be treated as earnings in Universal Credit and your Universal Credit payment will be adjusted in response to changes in your earnings.

Find an Advice NI Member

Our members are spread across Northern Ireland and can help with any benefit queries you have. To view our members as a list, visit this link -> https://www.adviceni.net/advice/get/local/list


Some information on this page contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.