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028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

A further 95 families lose mitigation help as cliff edge approaches

As required by the Welfare Reform Order, the Department for Communities has published its report on the operation of elements of the welfare reform mitigations package for the year 2017/2018. The report shows that:

  • 1,840 families affected by the Benefit cap received an average of £102 per month
  • 38,270 households affected by the Bedroom Tax received an average of £44 per month
  • a further 95 families lost their entitlement to the extra help to offset the bedroom tax during this period

If the mitigations were to end as planned these vital protections would be lost. Housing Rights is deeply concerned about the impact this would have on those affected. Indeed Housing Executive research showed that for tenants who lost their Bedroom Tax supplementary payments, average arrears per household almost quadrupled in the five months that followed, rising from £46 to £174. It is therefore reasonable to presume that the end of welfare mitigations would lead, among other issues, to a significant rise in arrears which in turn can lead to housing stress and homelessness.

In 2016, under the Fresh Start Agreement, the Northern Ireland Executive committed £501 million to a mitigations package which, in the words of the Northern Ireland audit office, has ‘insulated’ Northern Ireland from the full impact of welfare reform. These protections are due to end in March 2020. As part of the Cliff Edge NI Coalition, Housing Rights along with over 100 other organisations, are calling for these vital protections to be extended and strengthened beyond this date.

The mitigations package includes the provision of automatic Welfare Supplementary Payments which were developed to cover the loss experienced by people impacted by welfare reforms such as the Benefit Cap and the Bedroom Tax. Each year the Department for Communities report on the Welfare Supplementary Payments made during the financial year.

Time is of the essence 

As we hurtle towards March 2020, the Cliff Edge NI Coalition are urgently campaigning to ensure that the mitigations package be continued, and also to ensure that these vital protections are strengthened to take account of the new challenges claimants are facing such as Universal Credit. In order for this to happen legislation must be passed either by a Northern Ireland Assembly or, in its absence, by Westminster.

When the mitigations package was first introduced it afforded almost 1500 days of protection, and as of today just 140 remain – needless to say, time is of the essence!


Tagged In

Benefits, Welfare Reform