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Welfare Reform Act (Northern Ireland) 2007

Section 34: Interpretation

The housing benefit extended payment scheme provides access to a four week run-on of benefit in certain circumstances, after a qualifying person starts work or increases his hours/wages of current employment. There are two parallel schemes:

  • for persons going off either income support or income-based jobseeker’s allowance; and

  • for persons leaving either incapacity benefit or severe disablement allowance.

Generally the four week extended payment will be at the same rate of benefit as the person was receiving in the week before he took up work. This is intended to bridge the gap between leaving benefits and the first pay packet.

In order to be entitled to an extended payment a number of criteria need to be satisfied, which are set out in secondary legislation. For example:

  • the claimant or partner must have been entitled to and in receipt of the relevant qualifying benefit for 26 weeks immediately before taking up work or increasing hours/wages of current employment; and

  • the claimant or partner must be entitled to housing benefit in the week before employment commenced.

Under the current scheme, a claimant’s housing benefit award is ended when he moves off the qualifying benefit and meets the other criteria to enable payment of the extended payment. A new claim must be made in order to obtain any in-work entitlement to housing benefit.

These sections provide for a simpler method of making extended payments and remove the need for those who receive extended payments to submit a new claim for any in-work housing benefit. The move to employment (and entitlement to an extended payment) would be treated like a change of circumstances in a continuing award.

The current extended payment provisions are set out in regulations primarily made under powers in sections 129(2) and (4) of the Contributions and Benefits Act. The detailed rules are in regulations 70, 71, 75 and 76 of, and Schedules 8 and 9 to, the Housing Benefit Regulations and regulations 50, 51 and 56 of, and Schedule 8 to, the Housing Benefit (SPC) Regulations.

Section 32 is designed to recast the underpinning powers for extended payments.

Subsections (1) and (2) provide for the basic underpinning entitlement conditions for extended payments of housing benefit, namely that a person entitled to housing benefit would be entitled to such a payment for a prescribed length of time when his own or his partner’s entitlement to one of a number of prescribed benefits ends, in prescribed circumstances, and certain prescribed conditions are satisfied (e.g. he is liable to make payments for the dwelling he occupies as his home). The detailed rules are expected to remain the same or similar to the current scheme, and will remain in secondary legislation to provide the flexibility to keep these under review. The length of the extended payment period is likely to be four weeks as it is now.

Subsections (3) and (6) provide for the extended payment conditions of entitlement to take precedence over normal entitlement rules, in calculating the amount of housing benefit during the prescribed extended payment period.

Subsection (4) clarifies that where a person meets the qualifying conditions for an extended payment, there would be no need to make a separate claim for the extended payment. (There would still be a requirement for certain notifications to be made).

As now, the method of calculating the extended payment will be contained in regulations, which are provided for by subsection (5). It is intended that the amount of the extended payment would be the higher of the out-of-work entitlement or the in-work entitlement. The effect of this is to ensure that the claimant is entitled to at least the amount of housing benefit he was receiving before he started work or increased his income from work, during the extended payment period.

Subsection (7) provides that regulations can prescribe how the entitlement under subsection (2) interacts with an entitlement of housing benefit, whether the housing benefit entitlement is claimed by the extended payment claimant or his partner. For example, regulations made under this provision could provide that the out-of-work award would continue during the extended payment period and what happens when the prescribed extended payment period finishes. If the claimant is part of a couple, regulations can provide whether the calculation of the extended payment will be based upon the claimants or the partner’s housing benefit entitlement and how a partner’s housing benefit entitlement will be treated when an extended payment is in payment.

Subsection (9) enables the Department to make special provision in regulations for a person who was not entitled to housing benefit when he stopped being entitled to any of the qualifying benefits, but had been so entitled until a week before he took up employment.

Section 33 supports those arrangements by providing in subsections (1) and (2) that the Department can prescribe by regulations any modifications to the housing benefit provisions contained in the Administration Act, or subordinate legislation made in pursuance of that Act, which it considers are required in relation to extended payments. The intention is that the secondary legislation under these subsections will avoid disrupting the normal method of benefit payment, and where appropriate, will complement the payment provisions under the new local housing allowance arrangements.

Subsections (4) to (11) relate to the proposed regulation-making powers, and ensure consistency with existing regulation-making powers in relation to housing benefit.

Subsection (12) provides that payments under section 32 are classed as housing benefit, for example for cross-references in other legislation. For example, Schedule 7 to the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act (Northern Ireland) 2000, which provides the revisions and appeals mechanism for housing benefit, would also apply to payments under section 32.

Section 34 provides specific details on the interpretation of terms used in sections 32 and 33, thereby clarifying specific terms and ensuring consistency with established legislation.

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Explanatory Notes

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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