This bulletin will be distributed bi-weekly.

LCNI Social Security Bulletin

No. 30 -  13th March 2019

Social Security News

Covid-19 measures

The Department for Communities has confirmed that people who are in self-isolation will continue to receive their benefits. In addition anyone who is self-isolating or who works on a short term contract can apply for Universal Credit  or new-style (Contributory) Employment and Support Allowance, during the period of self-isolation.

There will be a temporary removal of the 3 day waiting period for Statutory Sick Pay and the 7 waiting days for people making a new style ESA claim. People who need to self-isolate for medical reasons to protect others will be treated as being ill. They do not need to go to a GP as there is a seven-day allowance for self-declaration.

The Department will treat people claiming new style ESA and/or UC as having limited capability for work from the start of their claim without a fit note, an assessment or some form of statutory public health notice.  The effect of this will be that any work related requirements will be switched off (conditionality).

People who are directly affected by Covid-19 or who are self-isolating will be able to claim UC without attending the Jobcentre and can access Advance Payments and the Contingency Fund.

For the duration of the outbreak the requirement for the minimum floor income in UC will be temporarily relaxed for those directly affected by Covid-19 or self-isolating for the duration of the outbreak.

Anyone who is in a crisis situation can apply for financial help by contacting the Department’s Finance Support service on 0800 587 2750 (Freephone) or 0800 587 2751 (textphone for customers with hearing difficulties). If claiming Universal Credit they can also apply for a UC Contingency Fund grant by contacting the Finance Support service and choosing option 2.

Universal Credit

Cliff Edge Coalition update

Minister for Communities, Deirdre Hargey has made a welcome commitment to extend the Social Sector Size Criteria (Bedroom Tax) through the introduction of new legislation. It is expected to be laid in the NI Assembly on 23 March and it is hoped that it will pass with accelerated passage before the 31 March cliff edge.

The Minister will also extend the following mitigations by way of the introduction of statutory regulations:
  • Benefit Cap
  • Children transferring from DLA to PIP
  • Disability related mitigations (those who are worse off after moving from DLA to PIP)
The Minister has submitted a bid for £41.7m in 2020/21 and £42m in 2021/22 to cover the cost of the extended measures. The finance Minister, Conor Murphy is expected to deliver the budget on 30 March.

The Cliff Edge Coalition has written to the Minister to ask when she plans to commence a review; with the aim of introducing further mitigations. The coalition will be pushing for the removal of the two-child limit; a supplementary payment to help those going through the 5 week wait; and support for those private renters affected by social security cuts.

Further UC measures in the budget 2020

From October 2021, the period over which UC advances will be recovered will increase to 23 months, while the maximum rate at which deductions can be made from UC will reduce from 30% to 25% of the standard allowance.

The government is introducing additional exemptions from the Shared Accomodation Rate (SAR) for UC and Housing Benefit claimants, which will enable rough sleepers aged 16-25, care leavers to the age of 25 and victims of domestic abuse and trafficking to live on their own.

The government is ending the benefits freeze and will increase working age benefits by 1.7% from April 2020.

The current £2,500 Universal Credit surplus earnings de minimis level will be extended from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021 and will place a copy in the library. This will safeguard the efficient administration of Universal Credit by not reducing the de minimis to £300 as provided by the Universal Credit Regulations 2013. This measure is expected to be mirrored in Northern Ireland.

Second Independent Review of PIP

A second independent review of PIP has been launched and will be carried out by Marie Cavanagh. The call for evidence is aimed at organisations and individuals who have information that is relevant to how the PIP assessment is operating for new claims, award reviews and change of circumstances.

You can find more information and make a response here.


Capita indicated that from May 2020, they would be rolling out the audio-recording of assessments. It is important to note that this will not be automatic and will rather be an opt-in system

Law Centre on the frontline

Law Centre are making contingency plans to ensure that our advice lines (telephony) remain open for the duration of the Covid-19 outbreak. We will update you on our plans as the situation progresses. 

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