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Welfare Reform Act (Northern Ireland) 2007

Section 4: Amount of income-related allowance

Section 4 provides for the calculation of the amount of an income-related employment and support allowance. Entitlement is based on rules similar to those which apply for income support, which the income-related allowance will replace for people with a health condition or a disability.

The amount of the income-related allowance is the “applicable amount”, if the claimant has no income, or the difference between the claimant’s income and applicable amount, if the claimant has income. The applicable amount is the weekly amount a person would receive if he had no income at all. Applicable amounts can vary, for example, dependent on whether the claimant has a partner. Like the contributory allowance, there is a proposed assessment phase of 13 weeks after which the amount of the work-related activity component or, if the claimant satisfies the relevant test, the support component will be included in the applicable amount.

Subsection (2)(a) provides the power to prescribe amounts to be part of the applicable amount. This includes, for example, where the claimant is an owner-occupier with housing costs. It is intended that additional amounts will be prescribed in respect of those costs, such as mortgage interest, ground rent or service charges. These are similar to the arrangements which currently apply to income support. The power will also allow for other additions to be made in future without the need for further primary legislation.

In addition to housing costs the power could also be used to include certain premiums. It is intended to pay an equivalent to the enhanced disability premium, severe disability premium and the carer premium using the same rules as for income support.

Subsection (3) provides the power to prescribe nil as an applicable amount. For example, paragraphs 7 and 8 of Schedule 7 to the Income Support (General) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1987 (S.R. 1987 No. 459) currently prescribe a nil amount for the purposes of income support in relation to certain prisoners and to members of religious orders who are fully maintained by their order. The intention is that such people will be treated in the same way for the purposes of income-related employment and support allowance.

For both the contributory and income-related allowance, sections 2 and 4 provide for entitlement to the work-related activity and support components to be backdated if, where the regulations provide, the assessment phase is extended (section 24(2)). For example, it is intended that this should be done where it has not been possible to complete the medical assessment process within the proposed 13 week period of the assessment phase. In such cases, if the claimant is subsequently determined to have limited capability for work, entitlement to the relevant work-related activity or support component will be backdated so that the claimant will receive the relevant work-related activity component or support component as if the assessment phase had ended at the end of week 13 of entitlement to an employment and support allowance.

Regulations under sections 2(4) and 4(6) will provide that, in certain circumstances, where a person was previously entitled to employment and support allowance, the condition of entitlement to the work-related activity component and support component that the assessment phase must have ended shall be disapplied. This will mean that a claimant may be entitled to the work-related activity or support component immediately he becomes entitled to an employment and support allowance.

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Text created by the Northern Ireland Assembly department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes accompany all Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly.


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