The Welfare Reform Act

The Welfare Reform Act 2012 has introduced a number of changes to the welfare system in England, Scotland and Wales. Some of these changes are still happening.

It is expected that similar changes will happen in Northern Ireland eventually. It’s not certain yet when these changes will take place. You can visit nidirect.gov.uk for more information.

As a result of the Welfare Reform Act, two new benefits have been introduced:

  • Universal Credit
  • Personal Independence Payment.

There are also changes to older benefits, including some being merged, and limits on how much money you can get from benefits. This is called a benefits cap.

Some benefits are not included in the benefit cap. If you or someone in your household already gets certain benefits, the benefit cap will not apply to you.

The most up-to-date information about changes to the benefits system is available on the gov.uk website.

Welfare reform

The Welfare Reform Act 2012 introduced many changes to the benefits system. Some of these changes are already in place, while others are still happening.

The changes include:

  • the introduction of two new benefits: Personal Independence Payment and Universal Credit 
  • changes to older benefits, including some being merged into the new benefits 
  • limits on how much money you can get from benefits. 

We explain all these changes throughout this section. If you are unsure about how any of the changes might affect you, speak to a welfare rights adviser.


The benefit cap

The benefit cap

There are new limits to how much you can get in benefits each week. This is called the benefit cap.

Some benefits are not included in the benefit cap. This includes Personal Independence Payment, Attendance Allowance and Working Tax Credit. The government has said it plans to add Carer’s Allowance to this list.

Visit gov.uk/benefit-cap or speak to a welfare rights adviser to find out which benefits are not affected. If you get any of these benefits, the benefit cap will not apply to you at all.

The benefit cap may also not apply to you if you live with a child or partner and they get any of these benefits. However if they are grown-up children or people who don’t depend on you financially (non-dependents), the cap will still affect you.

If you were working for 50 out of 52 weeks before you claimed benefits, you may be exempt from the benefit cap for up to 39 weeks.

The benefit cap is due to change after autumn 2016. The date when this will happen has not been decided at the time of writing.

Before autumn 2016

If the benefit cap applies to you, the total amount of benefits you can get from April 2016 to autumn 2016 is:

  • £350 a week if you are single and don’t have children who live with you.
  • £500 a week if you are in a couple.
  • £500 a week if you have children who live with you.

After autumn 2016

  • If you live outside of London, the cap will be £257.69 a week if you are single, or £384.62 if you are a couple or have children.
  • If you live in London, the cap will be £296.35 a week if you are single, or £442.31 if you are a couple or have children.


Welfare reform in Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Welfare Reform Act has now been passed. This means that some changes to the benefits system that have been happening in England, Scotland and Wales will also start to be introduced in Northern Ireland.

Spring 2016 update

  • The following changes are happening in Northern Ireland:
  • From 31 May 2016, a benefit cap will be introduced, limiting the total amount of benefits that people can get.
  • From 20 June 2016, the new benefit Personal Independence Payment will be introduced, gradually replacing Disability Living Allowance.
  • Changes will be introduced to Employment and Support Allowance and Housing Benefit.
  • The Social Fund system will be replaced by a new system called Discretionary Support.
  • From 23 May 2016, the process for appealing a benefit decision will change. This will mean you’ll need to ask for a benefit decision to be reviewed before you can appeal.
  • It’s also expected that Universal Credit will be introduced to Northern Ireland during 2017.

Keeping updated

The details above are based on information from the Social Security Agency, which is responsible for state benefits in Northern Ireland. But all of these plans may change. We aim to keep this page updated with the latest news about welfare reform in Northern Ireland, and you can also check nidirect.gov.uk for the latest news.

Further information and support

Macmillan Cancer Support, in partnership with Citizens Advice, provides a dedicated Welfare Rights Service to people affected by cancer in Northern Ireland. For information and support, or to arrange an appointment, please call 0300 1 233 233. Lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am-12.30pm and 1pm-4pm.

You can also call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00.

For benefits information and support in Northern Ireland please visit nidirect.gov.uk or call 0800 232 1271.

You can also contact the Northern Ireland Benefit Enquiry Line on 0800 220 674, or textphone 028 9031 1092 if you are deaf or hard of hearing.

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Macmillan grants

A Macmillan grant is a one-off payment for adults, young people or children with cancer, to cover a wide range of practical needs.