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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Bedroom tax help stops for a further 41 benefit claimants

41 additional people or families stopped receiving extra payments to offset the impact of the bedroom tax between 1 October 2018 and 31 March 2019, bringing to 216 the total number of claimants who have lost this financial assistance, according to Department for Communities reports.

Losing mitigation payments

When the bedroom tax was introduced to Northern Ireland, additional funding was agreed to mitigate the impact of this policy and to ensure that people didn’t unduly suffer as a result of this cut to benefits.

Under the bedroom tax, a person will have their housing benefit reduced if the home they occupy has more bedrooms than they are seen to need. However, any person in Northern Ireland whose Housing Benefit is cut as a result of the application of the social sector size criteria, or bedroom tax, is entitled to a welfare supplementary payment equal to the amount lost due to this policy. The regulations which govern the payment of these supplementary payments allow for this extra payment to stop if a person receiving the payment moves to another social tenancy but continues to have more bedrooms than they are seen to need, unless that person had management transfer status.

Requirement to report on impact of regulations

When the Housing Benefit (Welfare Supplementary Payment) Regulations (NI) 2017, which set out the legal framework for paying and stopping these payments, were debated in the Assembly then Minister for Communities Paul Givan committed to the Department providing biannual reports setting out how many claimants had lost entitlement to welfare supplementary payments because of the effect of the regulations.

The most recent biannual report covers the period from 1 October 2018 and 31 March 2019. In the report, the Department states that 39 Housing Benefit claimants lost entitlement to the welfare supplementary payment because they moved property, while 2 Universal Credit claimants lost the comparable administrative payment, which counters the effect of the bedroom tax under that benefit, for the same reason.

Tumbling towards a cliff edge

The fact that 216 benefit claimants have already lost entitlement to the extra help available to offset the impact of the bedroom tax is undoubtedly hugely concerning. However, as it currently stands all such mitigation payments are scheduled to end in 10 months, with no plan to address the difficulties which will accompany the end of welfare reform mitigations in March 2020.

This is why we, alongside over 60 other organisations in Northern Ireland, have joined the Cliff Edge Coalition NI to express our concern about the impact that the end of mitigations will have on vulnerable groups.

Tagged In

Benefits, Welfare Reform

This article was written on 24 May 2019. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.