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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Housing Rights response to NIAO Welfare Reform Report

Our experience as a housing advice organisation is increasingly evidencing the devastating housing impact of welfare reform. We therefore welcome the finding by the NIAO  in its Welfare Reform Report 2019 that welfare reforms in Northern Ireland are ‘likely to have a major impact on housing’.

Concerns about difficulties faced by private tenants

In particular, Housing Rights welcomes that the NIAO has highlighted the difficulties created by the changes to the benefit system which puts many tenants, who rent their homes from both social and private landlords, at risk of losing their home.  The report correctly identifies that the government increasingly relies on private landlords to meet the housing needs of low income households. We are particularly concerned about the difficult situation faced by this group as their landlords may not have the same ability to withstand arrears which develop as a result of benefit delays which could lead to evictions or private landlords being nervous about renting to people on benefits.

Solutions needed for mitigations cliff-edge

The NIAO also considers the likely effect of Welfare Reforms post March 2020; when the current mitigation arrangements to protect against measures such as the ‘bedroom tax’ are due to expire. Housing Rights, Law Centre NI and Advice NI recently launched a joint report which highlighted the same concern and called for government officials, elected representatives and the community / voluntary sector to work together to identify solutions.

Stakeholders must work together to protect people from debt and homelessness

Page 60 of the NIAO report identifies that opportunities for more joined up working between the sections of the Department for Communities with responsibility for welfare reform and for housing "have been missed". We believe that Welfare Reform continues to have serious impacts on people’s lives in Northern Ireland. Through our work, we know that the changes already in place are making it more difficult for people to find and keep their home. We remain deeply concerned both about the approaching mitigation cliff edge in 2020 and about the continued and future impact of reforms such as Universal Credit.

It is therefore critical that the functions of the Department which have responsibility for welfare reform and housing, seriously consider how best to work together and with other stakeholders to protect people from housing debt and homelessness.



Tagged In

Benefits, Welfare Reform, Policy

This article was written on 17 January 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.