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028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Housing Benefit to be reduced for temporary absence from Northern Ireland

From 30th January 2017, the amount of time for which a claimant will be able to receive Housing Benefit whilst temporarily absent from Northern Ireland will be reduced, in most cases, to a maximum of 4 weeks. The change applies to both working age claimants and state pension credit age claimants.

4 weeks of Housing Benefit for those temporarily absent from NI

New regulations set out that a person who is temporarily absent from Northern Ireland will be entitled to Housing Benefit for up to 4 weeks rather than 13 weeks as before. This new rule will even apply to someone who is temporarily in Great Britain. The regulations set out to distinguish between temporary absences from the claimant’s main home within Northern Ireland and outside of Northern Ireland. Existing provisions for temporary absences within Northern Ireland will remain unchanged.

Exceptions to the temporary absence and Housing Benefit rule

Entitlement may be extended beyond the 4 week limit in some specific circumstances, including:

  • The death of a partner, a child or young person – the 4 week period can be extended by a further 4 weeks if it would be unreasonable to expect a return to Northern Ireland within 4 weeks
  • The death of a close relative of the claimant, or of their partner or of a child or young person normally living with the claimant, where the extension is for up to 4 weeks
  • The claimant is fleeing from domestic violence, where entitlement may continue for up to 26 weeks
  • The claimant is undergoing medical treatment or convalescence or they are accompanying their partner or child or a young person who lives with them who needs medical treatment, entitlement may continue for up to 26 weeks.

The regulations do give some transitional protection for claimants who are already outside of Northern Ireland on 30th January.

Impact on certain groups

When similar regulations were being consulted on last year for Great Britain, Housing Rights lodged a joint response with the Law Centre (NI) which highlighted a number of concerns regarding specific groups of claimants.

One of our main concerns was for people at various stages of the criminal justice system.  A person detained on remand pending trial, pending sentence upon conviction, has bail requirements to live elsewhere, needs to live in bail accommodation or is sentenced following conviction, will experience a significant change if they are detained in the criminal justice system outside Northern Ireland. The period of temporary absence for this group will decrease from 52 weeks to 4 weeks. This could lead to greater instability which in turn could prevent progress for their rehabilitation.

Tagged In

Benefits, Minority Groups, Social Tenancies, Private Tenancies, Affordability

Author

Sharon Geary
This article was written on 18 January 2017. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.