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028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Participatory research into the introduction of Universal Credit in Northern Ireland: Interim Report

A research initiative from the University of Ulster and the University of York plans to explore claimant perspectives on the experience of receiving Universal Credit as well as developing recommendations for the future evolution of Universal Credit in Northern Ireland. The project also hopes to generate lessons about the specific and distinctive operation of Universal Credit in Northern Ireland that can be shared with policymakers in the rest of the UK.

A recently published interim report from the initiative gives an overview of key issues related to Universal Credit in Northern Ireland and details the ways in which, and reasons why, Universal Credit is being rolled out in a distinctive way in Northern Ireland.

The report provides interesting and useful background and analysis of the political and legislative issues which led to a crisis at the Northern Ireland Assembly and, ultimately, to a legislative consent motion allowing Westminster to introduce the Northern Ireland (Welfare Reform) Act 2015.

Bedroom tax perceptions

The voluntary sector in Northern Ireland is, understandably, hugely concerned about what will happen when people stop receiving welfare supplementary payments, introduced to mitigate some of the most impactful elements of welfare reform, in March 2020. The report argues that the existence of such payments means that many people affected by, for example, the Social Sector Size Criteria or Bedroom Tax may not even be aware that their benefits have been cut, as they are not actually feeling the effects of this change yet. That is supported by Housing Rights own anecdotal experience, where we often speak with tenants who are of the belief that agreement was reached that there would be no “bedroom tax” in Northern Ireland and are unaware that their benefits are set to reduce in 2020 when mitigations cease.

Research into impacts of Universal Credit in Northern Ireland

To date little research has been conducted into Universal Credit in Northern Ireland. The main published research on Universal Credit in Northern Ireland is the initial study conducted by the Department for Communities in line with its obligation to report regularly on the impact of welfare reform in Northern Ireland. What research is available is largely based on projections of financial impact and survey research with actual or prospective claimants. The report argues the need for qualitative research that allows for an in-depth exploration of claimants’ experiences of Universal Credit, including the Northern Ireland-specific mitigations and it is hoped that this initiative can ultimately provide this crucial insight into claimants’ experiences. 

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Benefits, Research, Welfare Reform