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028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Welfare Mitigations Cliff Edge avoided but work remains to be done

In the past year over 100 member organisations involved in the Cliff Edge Coalition have been urgently calling for welfare mitigations to be extended beyond 31st March 2020 and strengthened to take account of the new challenges such as Universal Credit, including the two-child limit, and cuts to housing benefits in the private rented sector.

In 2015, under the Fresh Start Agreement, the Northern Ireland Executive committed £585 million to a mitigations package in order to protect people in NI from some of the harshest aspects of Welfare Reform, such as bedroom tax and benefit cap. These crucial protections were due to end at the beginning of this week on 31st March.

Legislation to extend mitigations not passed in time

Earlier this year Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey committed to extending the mitigations beyond the March 2020 Cliff Edge. While the necessary legislation was not passed in time, due to the Covid-19 crisis, the Department for Communities has confirmed that payments will continue to be made for all of the existing mitigations schemes via contingency arrangements. The Department will therefore continue to determine individual entitlement to mitigations on the basis of the policy detailed in the existing legislation. This approach will continue until the relevant legislation to extend the mitigations is approved by the Assembly. As co-convenors of the Cliff Edge Coalition, Housing Rights has been reassured by the Department’s confirmation that these crucial protections will continue.

Work on mitigations measures will continue

As well as committing to extending the existing mitigations, Minister Hargey has also committed to working with stakeholders, including the Cliff Edge Coalition and people directly affected by welfare reform, to review the mitigation measures to consider areas in which they could be strengthened. Housing Rights looks forward to working alongside our Coalition colleagues as we continue to campaign for strengthened mitigations, particularly in light of the Covid-19 crisis which has brought into even sharper focus the need for strong, fair social security safety nets.

Tagged In

Benefits, Welfare Reform
This article was written on 3 April 2020. 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.