This bulletin will be distributed bi-weekly.

LCNI Social Security Bulletin

No. 27. 28 August 2019

Social Security News

Adviser Network Meeting: Friday 13 September 2019, 11 am - 1 pm 

Advisers in the north west area are invited to the next adviser network meeting at Advice North West, 5th Floor Embassy Building, 3 Strand Road, Derry/Londonderry, BT48 7BJ. Adviser network meetings provide you with the latest updates on current law and practice as well as an opportunity for peer to peer discussion among advisers. To book your place, please email

New Adviser Guides on Personal Independence Payment and Universal Credit

Law Centre NI's legally trained social security and welfare reform hubs have produced two expert guides designed to assist all advisers, from those advising on entitlement and completing forms to those advocating on behalf of clients. You can download the guides for free here.

NI Benefits Statistics Published

The Department for Communities (DfC) has published new Northern Ireland benefits statistics for the period of June 2016 to May 2019, including statistics on Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Universal Credit (UC). The PIP statistics include information on average clearance periods; award rates; and requests for 'mandatory reconsiderations'.

Some headline PIP stats include:
  • From registration to clearance, the average time for a decision between June 2016 to May 2019 was 13 weeks. However, in May 2019 this has risen to 19 weeks;
  • Between June 2016 to May 2019, 46% of 'new claims' received an award, whereas 78% of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) 'reassessments' received an award;
  • Of the DLA reassessment awards, 39% of claimants received an increase in the level of award and 41% received a lower level or no award; and
  • 29% of PIP decisions resulted in a request for reconsideration, with 84% of new claims and 78% of reassessed DLA reconsiderations resulting in change to the award.
Law Centre NI Conference: 'The Future of Social Security'

Bookings have opened for the Law Centre NI's Annual Social Security Law and Practice Conference, taking place at NICVA on Thursday 24th October. You can request a booking form by emailing The day is already shaping up to be packed full of interesting guest speakers, informed conversations and interactive workshops. Baroness Ruth Lister and Professor Eileen Evason have both been confirmed as guest speakers.

We are now also pleased to have secured an interactive workshop by Universal Credit, demonstrating their digital application system. This workshop will give you the opportunity to see the claims system from both a client's point of view and from Universal Credit's point of view, helping you understand what information is needed and why. It will be fully interactive - you will be able to take a client journey, from starting a new claim to reporting a change of circumstances. You will also have the opportunity to speak with Universal Credit about the system.

Universal Credit 

Universal Credit Linked to Homelessness

A Children's Commissioner for England report has cited Universal Credit as a contributing factor in forcing families into homelessness. The report Bleak Houses: Tackling the crisis of family homelessness in England states that: "Analysis for the Children’s Commissioner’s Office shows that the 5 week wait for their first [Universal Credit] payment pushes 70% of families from a cash surplus to cash shortfall." The report goes on to recommend that "families on Universal Credit should receive their first payment straight away, not after 5 weeks."
On the Frontline

PIP Survey to Inform Future Policy and Practice

Law Centre NI would like to thank everyone who took part in or shared the PIP survey. The survey forms a wider piece of research investigating peoples' experiences of claiming PIP and collected just under 600 responses, with the results being analysed for future publication. The overall research project, conducted by the All Party Group on Learning Disability, supported by Mencap NI and Law Centre NI, hopes to influence future policy and practice and improve the experience for those claiming PIP. Law Centre NI is primarily responsible for providing the policy and legal context for the final report, due to be launched in Parliament Buildings on Tuesday 29th October.

Cliff Edge Coalition Moving to Next Phase

The Cliff Edge Coalition now sits at 99 members, covering a broad span of the advice sector and the wider community and voluntary sector. With a strong membership base now established, packed with expert knowledge and experience, the Coalition is preparing for the critical months ahead. If you want to join the Coalition and help us raise your concerns around the end of welfare reform mitigations, please get in touch.

Law Centre NI Training Courses

Ensure you get the best outcome for your clients by being as informed as possible on the issues, details and tactics of a case. Law Centre NI training has an excellent reputation for providing meaningful and worthwhile learning that will assist you to get the best for your clients. You can see the full calendar of courses here, or alternatively contact the Law Centre NI training hub on for any individual requests.

Top Tip

SDP Gateway

The Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) (SDP Gateway) (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2019 prevents a claim for Universal Credit for someone who within the month prior were entitled to a severe disability premium in their ESA, Income Support, JSA or Housing Benefit.

In Northern Ireland, Housing Benefit can be paid for rent but also toward rates in the form of Housing Benefit and Rates Relief.

Law Centre NI has had recent experience of a legacy benefit provider contacting housing benefit in NI Housing Executive (Rent) to check if there is an SDP in payment but not checking with Land and Property Services to check if there is an SDP entitlement to Housing Benefit for rates.

Advisers should be mindful that claimants with an entitlement to SDP in Housing Benefit and Rates relief awards should be prevented from making a claim to UC.

If you are aware of any clients who have been disadvantaged in these circumstances please contact the Social Security Advice Line: (028) 9024 4401.

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