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028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Cliff Edge Coalition meets Communities Minister to discuss welfare mitigations

Last week Housing Rights’ Policy Team were part of a delegation of Cliff Edge NI Coalition members who met last week with Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey, along with senior Department for Communities officials Colum Boyle and Anne McCleary.

The delegation discussed the Minister’s commitment to extending the existing welfare mitigations mitigations, and the need for this extension to reach beyond continued welfare supplementary payments to include other mitigation measures currently in place such as funding for independent advice services and the Universal Credit Contingency Fund.

The delegation also discussed the importance of strengthening the mitigations to take account of new challenges such as Universal Credit, including the two-child limit, and cuts to housing benefits in the private rented sector. We further highlighted the importance of stakeholder involvement in the review process, including engagement with people directly affected by welfare reform.

Minister confirms commitment to ensuring extension of mitigations

It was a very positive meeting, with Minister Hargey confirming her commitment to ensuring the necessary legislation is passed in time to extend the existing mitigations beyond March 2020. The Minister also reiterated her commitment to reviewing the mitigation package to assess ways it can be strengthened to address new challenges. She further highlighted her intention to continue to involve stakeholders such as the Cliff Edge Coalition in this review process, as well as engaging with people directly affected by welfare reform.

Just a matter of days after this meeting, the Minister announced Executive agreement to bring forward legislation to extend Bedroom Tax mitigations. Housing Rights welcomes this announcement.

 

"Today’s announcement by Minister Hargey is very welcome. It will be reassuring to the 38,000 tenants impacted by the bedroom tax in Northern Ireland who were set to lose an average of £50 a month come March 2020.  Recent research has shown that, for tenants who have lost their bedroom tax mitigation payments, average arrears per household almost quadrupled in the five months that followed. It is therefore our hope that today’s announcement will remove the risk of arrears and housing stress faced by households as a result of bedroom tax. We also welcome Minister Hargey’s commitment to reviewing the mitigation measures. We look forward to working with her to ensure these vital protections are strengthened to take account of new and growing challenges which have compounded the issues faced by our clients in meeting their housing costs, such as social security changes in the Private Rented Sector and the introduction of Universal Credit.”  Kate McCauley, Housing Rights Policy & Practice Manager

Listen now to Kate explaining to Frank Mitchell and the U105 audience how this announcement will benefit the people of Northern Ireland 

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Welfare Reform