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028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Regulations extend two-child limit to Housing Benefit in Northern Ireland

Recent legislation limited Child Tax Credit for households with more than two children, where one or more of these children has been born on or after 6th April 2017. This means that a family with three children, where two of the three were born before 6th April 2017, and one child was born after this date, will only receive tax credits in respect of the oldest two children.

The changes to tax credits will only apply to children born on or after 6 April 2017.  A family with four children, all born before this date will continue to receive tax credits in respect of all four children.  But, should this family have another child after 6 April 2017, the amount of child tax credits awarded to this family will not increase. Regulations have now been passed to extend this two-child limit to Housing Benefit – as well as Universal Credit, Income Support and Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Reducing the applicable amount for Housing Benefit claimants

The amount of Housing Benefit that a person receives depends on the household’s individual circumstances. Allowances are awarded in respect of the different individuals living in the property to arrive at the household’s “applicable amount”, the amount of money which the government believes this household needs in order to manage. As the household’s earnings increase beyond this “applicable amount”, the amount of Housing Benefit the household can receive will decrease. 

Where previously, a claimant would receive an allowance for every child or qualifying young person in the home, these new regulations will restrict the amounts payable in respect of children or young persons. The total applicable amount will now be lower for some households with more than two children and, as a consequence, these households will receive less Housing Benefit.

Households receiving HB, but not receiving child tax credits

The Social Security (Restrictions on Amounts for Children and Qualifying Young Persons) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2017 amend the Housing Benefit Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016 to restrict the applicable amount so that it is only payable “in respect of up to two individuals who are either children or young persons”.  

Where a household is not receiving child tax credits, the household’s applicable amount will now include a maximum of two amounts for any children or young persons who are members of the household. 

Where there are more than two children, the applicable amount will be the sum of the two most generous allowances.  This will be the default provision in handling new Housing Benefit claims for households with dependent children or young persons.

Households receiving HB and tax credits

Where the household has an award of child tax credit, an amount is to be included in the applicable amount for any child or young person awarded an individual element of child tax credit.  This will only happen where the total amount to be included using this calculation would be higher than the total amount that would be included under the default provisions mentioned above.

Transitional protection and advice on meeting housing costs

Where a claimant is already receiving Housing Benefit, they will not be affected by this change until they either make a new claim for Housing Benefit or become responsible for a new child or young person.

If you or your clients are struggling to afford your housing costs and need advice, we can help. You can visit our advice site, housingadviceNI; send us your query by e-mail; or contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640. Our helpline is open between 09:30 and 14:30 Monday to Friday. 

Tagged In

Benefits, Legislation, Welfare Reform, Affordability

This article was written on 25 April 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.