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

As part of the welfare reform changes, there are new limits to how much you can get in benefits. This is called the benefit cap.

The total amount of benefits you can get is:

  • £350 a week if:
    • you are single and do not have children
    • you have children but they do not live with you
  • £500 a week if:
    • you have children and they live with you
    • you are a couple (whether or not you have children).

Some benefits are not included in the benefit cap. If you or someone in your household already get certain benefits, the benefit cap will not apply to you. You can find a list of these benefits by visiting gov.uk/benefit-cap or by speaking to a benefits adviser. If you or your partner worked for at least 50 of the 52 weeks before your last day of work, the benefit cap may not apply straight away.


Welfare reform in Northern Ireland

The benefits system is changing across the UK. But in Northern Ireland, it is unclear when any changes will take effect.

The Northern Ireland Welfare Reform Bill is expected to create a number of changes to the benefits system in Northern Ireland. However, the Bill still needs to pass through a number of key stages before it can become law.

Summer 2015 update

The following changes are expected to happen, but it is unclear when they will take effect:

  • A benefit cap will be introduced, limiting the total amount of benefits that individuals can claim.
  • 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.
  • The process for appealing a benefit decision will change.
  • It’s also expected that Universal Credit will be introduced to Northern Ireland.
  • Some of these changes will be similar to reforms that are already underway in England, Scotland and Wales.

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.