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It takes a period of time for migrant workers to establish themselves in work in a new country, and, often they only find out their entitlements after they have been in the country for several months or if they face a crisis, for example, lose their job, experience relationship breakdown etc.The current backdating period for Housing Benefit has enabled Law Centre (NI) to successfully backdate claims for migrant workers enabling them to pay rent arrears built up over a period of months and consequently prevent them from losing their home.Undoubtedly Pension Credit has played an important role in tackling pensioner poverty and, in particular, access to twelve months backdating without the need to show good cause has been a very welcome feature of this benefit.However, we are aware that older people still encounter barriers and difficulties in claiming benefits.

Under the new proposals such claimants would become liable for a proportion of rent arrears accrued which may lead to increasing levels of evictions among very vulnerable groups of people.The Northern Ireland Housing Executive currently does not collate figures on the number of HB claimants over 60 whose benefit is backdated between three and twelve months.It is their current practice to automatically consider all claims from people over pensionable age as fresh claims from a period beginning twelve months prior to the application being made.Being able to backdate benefit for up to a year helps prevent eviction and homelessness by enabling tenants to pay off rent arrears which, it is our experience, are often caused by problems with their Housing Benefit claim in the first place.It can often take a client longer than three months to identify if there is a problem with their claim for benefit.

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