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028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Audit Office report confirms ‘major’ welfare reform impact on housing

Local housing advice charity, Housing Rights has welcomed the publication by the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) of its report into ‘Welfare Reforms in Northern Ireland’.

Commenting on the report, Policy and Practice Manager, Kate McCauley said;

“Our experience as a housing advice organisation is increasingly evidencing the devastating housing impact of welfare reform. We therefore welcome the finding by the NIAO that welfare reforms in Northern Ireland are ‘likely to have a major impact on housing’.

In particular, Housing Rights welcomes that the NIAO has highlighted the difficulties created by the changes to the benefit system which puts many tenants, who rent their homes from both social and private landlords, at risk of losing their home. 

Ms McCauley continued;

“The report correctly identifies that the government increasingly relies on private landlords to meet the housing needs of low income households. We are particularly concerned about the difficult situation faced by this group as their landlords may not have the same ability to withstand arrears which develop as a result of benefit delays which could lead to evictions or private landlords being nervous about renting to people on benefits.”

The NIAO also considers the likely effect of Welfare Reforms post March 2020; when the current mitigation arrangements to protect against measures such as the ‘bedroom tax’ are due to expire. Housing Rights, Law Centre NI and Advice NI recently launched a joint report which highlighted the same concern and called for government officials, elected representatives and the community / voluntary sector to work together to identify solutions.

The NIAO report identifies that opportunities for more joined up working between the sections of the Department for Communities with responsibility for welfare reform and for housing ‘have been missed’[i].

Concluding her remarks, Housing Rights’ spokesperson, Ms McCauley concluded;

“Welfare Reform continues to have serious impacts on people’s lives in Northern Ireland. Through our work, we know that the changes already in place are making it more difficult for people to find and keep their home. We remain deeply concerned both about the approaching mitigation cliff edge in 2020 and about the continued and future impact of reforms such as Universal Credit.

It is therefore critical that the functions of the Department which have responsibility for welfare reform and housing, seriously consider how best to work together and with other stakeholders to protect people from housing debt and homelessness.”

ENDS


[i] Please see page 60 specifically of the NIAO report for this reference.