There will be no change to the existing dispute process for claimants in Northern Ireland when new dispute arrangements come into force in Great Britain next week.
The existing dispute processes for claimants in Northern Ireland will continue until the Welfare Reform Bill (NI) 2012 and the necessary regulations have completed the legislative passage through the Assembly.
However, as the Social Security Agency uses Great Britain computer systems to issue benefit notifications, claimants in Northern Ireland who are seeking to claim or are receiving Employment Support Allowance, Jobseekers Allowance or Income Support will, from 28 October, receive benefit decision notification letters with incorrect information about dispute rights. Those notifications will detail the new arrangements that apply in Great Britain. In addition, notifications relating to payments for Winter Fuel as well as some aspects of Social Fund and Pension Credit will also contain incorrect information about dispute rights.
To avoid any confusion, the Social Security Agency has taken steps to ensure that claimants in Northern Ireland are advised of their proper dispute rights. For the benefits above, any decision notification the claimant receives will also contain an insert which clearly details the current arrangements relating to disputes in Northern Ireland.
All other benefit notifications are unaffected.
Notes to editors:
1. The new arrangement in Great Britain is called Mandatory Reconsideration and means that if a claimant disputes a decision relating to Social Security benefits they must formally ask for a revision of that decision before they have a right of appeal to an independent Tribunal. This new legislation is part of the Great Britain Welfare Reform Act 2012 and is already in place in Great Britain for Personal Independence Payments and Universal Credit.
2. The Welfare Reform Bill (NI) 2012 is currently making its way through the legislative process at the Northern Ireland Assembly.
3. Further information on the Welfare Reform proposals for Northern Ireland can be found at Changes to benefits - Welfare Reform (nidirect website)