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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Housing Rights highlights concerns about welfare policy to Westminster Inquiry

Today, we submit written evidence to a Westminster Inquiry examining welfare policy in Northern Ireland. The Joint Inquiry by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee and the Work and Pensions Committee is specifically interested in the planned end of the welfare mitigations in March 2020, Universal Credit and the two child limit.

As one of over 70 organisations now part of the Cliffedge NI Coalition, we have highlighted deep concern with the planned end of welfare mitigations.

"Time is running out for welfare mitigations"

Our Policy and Practice Manager Kate McCauley believes the Inquiry is crucially important.

The focus and timing of this Inquiry are critical; time is running out for welfare mitigations in Northern Ireland and attention needs to be brought to bear on how we will protect those worst affected by welfare reform post March 2020.

Our work shows us on a daily basis that welfare policy and housing are inextricably linked, yet often our government is slow to make this connection. Put simply, the current mitigations have helped keep people in their homes. It is vital that they continue.

Also important however, is that the benefit cuts which have driven affordability problems for low income households who rent privately, and those which arise from Universal Credit are also part of the discussion. The impact of welfare reform has been tenure blind and so too is government responsibility for addressing poverty and promoting wellbeing.

 A limited window of opportunity now exists for political representatives and policy makers to fully consider the challenges which face people in Northern Ireland and design a range of measures which protect people accordingly.

The evidence we have submitted considers the impact of the planned end of the welfare mitigations and appraises the options put forward by the Department for Communities in their recent review.

Specifically, our evidence considers;

  • the proposed potential use of Discretionary Housing Payments as a mechanism to continue making payments to households affected by the Social Sector Size Criteria and the Benefit Cap;
  • how use of the Universal Credit Contingency Fund can be maximised, and;
  • how the aspirations of the Evason Working Group around access to affordable credit and practical support can be more fully achieved.

Our submission to the Inquiry also looks at issues with Universal Credit which are specific to Northern Ireland and which have emerged despite the existence of flexibilities such as direct payments to landlords.

Coalition evidence

The Cliff Edge NI Coalition has also responded to the Committee's request for evidence on welfare policy in Northern Ireland.

Tagged In

Welfare Reform, Policy

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.