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When everyone has a home

Housing and debt helpline for Northern Ireland – 028 9024 5640

Removal of housing costs for some 18-21 year olds

The Government’s removal of Universal Credit housing costs from some 18-21 year olds has garnered a lot of media attention. Policy Officer Stephen Orme looks at what these changes mean.

No change in Northern Ireland

The Universal Credit (Housing Costs Element for claimants aged 18 to 21) (Amendment) Regulations 2017, which establish this change, apply only to Great Britain and will take effect from 1st April 2017. The principle of “parity” between the Northern Irish and Great British welfare systems means that this change will most likely eventually be introduced in Northern Ireland as well. However, regulations to make this happen have not yet been published.

Although the changes have widely been reported as a withdrawal of “Housing Benefit” from young people, it’s important to note that this change applies only to Universal Credit and will not affect claimants in receipt of Housing Benefit.

Cuts to housing costs for young people explained

As explained in our free online training on welfare reform, Universal Credit is made up of seven elements, one of these being a “housing costs” element.  These regulations remove entitlement to the housing costs element of Universal Credit for a claimant who is:

  • a single person;
  • aged 18-21;
  • claiming Universal Credit in a “digital service” area;
  • subject to all of the work-related requirements of Universal Credit.

So, any claimant who meets these criteria will not be eligible for any housing costs as part of their Universal Credit unless they meet some of the exemptions to the rule.  Note that the changes only apply to claimants in “digital service” areas, those areas in which the full Universal Credit service is available.

Young people who will continue to receive Housing Costs element of Universal Credit

The regulations contains a list of exemptions.  A young person who would otherwise not be entitled to housing costs, will become eligible for this payment if he or she

  • is responsible for a child or qualifying young person;
  • was a care leaver before reaching the age of 18;
  • does not have a parent living in Great Britain;
  • is accommodated in temporary accommodation under the provisions of Part VII of the Housing Act 1996
  • receives DLA middle-rate care or above, or PIP Daily Living (at either rate);
  • would be exempt from the Shared Accommodation Rate LHA restrictions by virtue of his or her offending history;
  • has been subject to, or threatened with domestic violence by their partner, former partner, or a family member;
  • cannot live with their parents due to a serious risk to their physical or mental health, and the Secretary of State considers it inappropriate to expect them to do so;
  • earns at least the equivalent of 16 hours per week at the National Minimum Wage.

Finally, if a young claimant has earnings of at least the equivalent of 16 hours per week at the National Minimum Wage, for at least 6 months before they claimed Universal Credit, they will be able to claim housing costs for the first 6 months of their claim.

Housing costs for 18-21 year-olds in Northern Ireland

As detailed above, these Regulations do not apply to Northern Ireland.   Separate legislation will be required to bring this change into force in Northern Ireland. 

As noted above, these changes apply to the housing costs element of Universal Credit and will not alter the rules on Housing Benefit.  The adoption of any similar measures locally will likely be dependent on not just local legislation, but also the planned roll-out for Universal Credit in Northern Ireland, which is scheduled to begin in September 2017.

We will monitor developments in this regard and update our members when we know more. 

If you or your clients are struggling to afford your current home, you can phone our advice line on 028 9024 5640, or visit our housing advice website, housingadviceNI.org.

Tagged In

Benefits, Welfare Reform, Affordability


Stephen Orme