Local advice charity calls for immediate intervention to avoid crisis for many this winter
Advice NI calls for restoration of NI Executive to provide desperately needed local support as poorest households brace themselves for a winter of crisis and deprivation.
The Advice NI Annual Conference held in Skainos Centre today highlights how the independent advice network helped over 241,000 people with advice queries last year amid fears about the £600 domestic energy bill support and concerns about measures contained in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.
Advice NI Chief Executive Bob Stronge said:
“As the new Prime Minister talks about a ‘profound economic crisis facing the country it is worth remembering that independent advice services have been to the fore, often in crisis mode, for the last decade and more, supporting people in need, often in crisis situations. This comes at a cost and is taking its toll on the well-being of advisers.
The Chancellor’s Statement confirmed social security benefits uprating by inflation but failed to commit to this as a permanent approach, leading to the prospect of future uncertainty for claimants. And with benefit claimants both in and out of work not receiving their full entitlement owing to a wide variety of reductions, deductions, suspensions and sanctions, the Chancellor’s announcement of greater Universal Credit conditionality for more vulnerable claimants raises the spectre of a further rise in sanctions.
Much more needs to happen locally to support people through this cost of living crisis. Concerns are growing about when the £600 domestic energy bill support payment will arrive and we have already seen examples of cases where households were incorrectly on commercial as opposed to domestic contracts and so risked missing out on the payment. Also, this payment will put some accounts into significant credit, but can households draw down this money in their electricity accounts and use it to pay for much-needed heating oil?
A decade of austerity, the pandemic, rising inflation, rising interest rates, rising mortgage rates, recession and job loss have all contributed to eroding resilience and a tangible feeling of hopelessness and despair. Surviving this crisis should now be the focus and to that end, there are a number of things that need to happen:
Restoration of the NI Executive to agree on a budget and bring forward support measures to deliver for the people who are in crisis right now. Wider political and ideological issues can and should be dealt with in tandem with the restoration of a functioning Executive;
The UK Government need to commit to the Real Living Wage and legislate for social security benefit uprating in line with inflation to provide certainty for those out of work and in low-paid work;
Proper, sustained support for the independent advice network is required to enable us to do what we do best and that is to continue to support the people that need it most.”
- For further information, contact Elkie Ritchie, Advice NI Communications Manager on 07702846030 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Advice NI and the Independent Advice Network in Northern Ireland dealt with 241,088 enquiries in 2021/22. For more information log on to www.adviceni.net.
- Advice NI Freephone helpline provides free advice on; benefits, debt, business debt, EUSS, and Tax Credits & other HMRC products. Call 0800 9154604 or email: email@example.com.