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Housing Rights joins calls for action to protect claimants from welfare reform

Cliffs of Moher, Co Clare

Housing Rights, with Advice NI and the Law Centre (NI) launched a joint report highlighting the approaching 2020 ‘cliff edge’ when funding for the mitigation package, agreed as part of the Fresh Start Agreement in 2015, is due to expire. We are calling for renewed focus on protecting social security claimants from the harshest elements of ongoing welfare reform.

The mitigation package has shielded many social security claimants from some of the most impactful welfare reform changes, but these protections cease in March 2020. The joint report identifies the impact if these protections were to cease and highlights further areas where protections are required post 2020.

Priority areas for focus

The report identifies three options for dealing with the approaching cliff edge; namely

  • discontinue the mitigation package; an option that will undoubtedly cause considerable financial hardship
  • continue the mitigation package in its current form; an option that will continue to assist claimants threatened by existing reforms, but offers no protection from the evolving welfare landscape and specifically from hardships arising from Universal Credit
  • continue to mitigate the impacts of welfare reform by reprofiling the mitigations package. 

We have suggested that any re-profiled mitigations package should invest in three priority areas and the report contains recommendations to this effect. The priority areas are:

  • mitigating against hardships arising from procedural difficulties with Universal Credit
  • identifying and understanding the specific needs of low-income private and social tenants with a view to providing a funded service to provide practical assistance to alleviate financial pressures on this group
  • providing assistance to children and families who have been heavily impacted by welfare reform, through measures like the 2-child limit, the loss of disability premiums and more intensive job seeking conditionality requirements for lone parents. 

We note the underspend in some of the previous mitigation arrangements and are calling for this money to be redirected to address the future impact of Universal Credit and measures such as the two-child tax credit policy. Additionally, government support is required for people on low incomes who are renting privately and who have been impacted by welfare reform. Kate McCauley at Housing Rights

“We are hoping this report will initiate conversations across the sector and with political and government representatives about the approaching mitigations ‘cliff edge’. It is critical that urgent attention is brought to bear on these issues” Kevin Higgins at Advice NI

“As advice organisations our work shows us the continuing need for protection from the harshest elements of welfare reform. We are also mindful of new and significant upcoming challenges presented by the roll-out of Universal Credit which will continue until 2023. Any new mitigation arrangements must take account of this.” Ciara Fitzpatrick at Law Centre NI

Read the full report

Welfare Reform: Mitigations on a Cliff Edge: Advice NI, Law Centre NI and Housing Rights report

Image "Dangerous Cliff Edge", copyright Anna & Michal

Tagged In

Benefits, Welfare Reform

Author

Etain Ní Fhearghail