Internal Review of the Rate Rebate Scheme

Date published: 27 October 2022

The Rate Rebate Scheme is a Department of Finance Scheme which was introduced on 27 September 2017 in alignment with the phased introduction of Universal Credit (UC) and the gradual abolition of Housing Benefit in Northern Ireland. The Scheme was introduced to provide support for Universal Credit claimants who could struggle to pay their domestic rate bill. 

As with any new policy the Department ensured that the Scheme was monitored and in the absence of a functioning Assembly (at that time) and consequent lack of Assembly scrutiny, an independent review of the Scheme was commissioned in January 2019 to provide the Department with an independent opinion on whether the Scheme was delivering the policy objectives, and before any internal review of the scheme would commence. The independent review was published in June 2019 by New Policy Institute Associates (NPI) following which the Department established a working group to engage with stakeholders and commenced a formal internal review of the Scheme. The findings and recommendations of the NPI report were considered in the scope of the internal review

Until UC is fully introduced (estimated to complete by 2024) with the managed migration of legacy benefit claimants to UC, a true indication of how the Scheme is achieving its objectives cannot be fully realised; however, the Department considered there would be value in examining the policy after its first few years of implementation and did not wish to delay the internal review until the policy had been fully introduced.

It should be recognised that this report evidences a specific period of time when the review was conducted and that the Scheme has naturally progressed and enhanced since that time. As the development of this report proceeded, improvements continued to be made to the Scheme and further opportunities continue to be identified for future improvements to the operation and administration of the Scheme.

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