Warning of Misery and Hardship with Looming Mitigations Cliff Edge

Today at the Advice NI annual conference, the impact of welfare reform across NI was discussed.

The theme of the conference was Welfare Reform: Mitigations on a Cliff Edge and the event focussed on the expiry of the package of measures brought forward by Professor Eileen Evason. The package of measures, which protect many vulnerable children and adults from the hardship caused by welfare reform, are due to expire in March 2020.

Bob Stronge, Chief Executive of Advice NI explained:
“We are rapidly hurtling towards a welfare reform cliff edge in March 2020 with the potential ending of the package of support developed by Professor Evason and her Working Group. Consider the uproar when it was revealed that the number of households in Northern Ireland hit by the bedroom tax had risen to 86 housing benefit claimants. If the mitigations package ends in March 2020, approximately 34,000 households will be hit with a bedroom tax bill totalling over £22million. Furthermore, approximately 1,500 low income families with children will have to pay a total of approximately £4million due to the benefit cap. The clock is ticking on the expiry of the mitigations package and the savage cuts that will be unleashed on thousands of unsuspecting low income households. Action and decisions are needed now to extend the mitigations package and provide security for the most vulnerable in our society.”

Key highlights from the conference included:
  • Advice NI and its members dealt with over 230,000 enquiries during 2017/2018. 
  • More than 50,000 enquiries were made to the Advice NI independent welfare changes Helpline;
  • The organisation delivered 220 training courses to 4,828 participants.
  • Advice NI websites received 149,341 visitors
  • The Advice NI Business Debt Service advised on £22.2 million of debt for 369 Northern Ireland Businesses. 
At the event, Advice NI, Housing Rights and Law Centre (NI) together launched their joint report Welfare Reform: Mitigations on a Cliff Edge which outlined the impact of the mitigations and the options post 2020.

The conference concluded with a panel discussion featuring MLAs from each of the six main Northern Ireland political parties, hosted by BBC Northern Ireland’s Economics & Business Editor, John Campbell.

Mary McManus, Chair of Advice NI and Manager, East Belfast Independent Advice Centre concluded:
“Advice services provide a lifeline for people as they struggle to cope with a whole range of problems affecting their lives. Advisers help people, many of whom have never used advice services before, who are struggling to make ends meet. Independent advice centres are at the forefront in tackling need, helping people access their rights and entitlements.
“The quality of the service and the commitment and dedication of the staff of Advice NI members are vital components of the independent advice network. In addition our latest statistics demonstrate the breadth of services provided: whilst social security benefit work accounted for the majority of the workload other issues dealt with on a daily basis include debt, housing, employment and consumer problems”

  1. For further information contact Bob Stronge, CEO or Kevin Higgins, Head of Policy, Advice NI on 028 9064 5919
  2. Advice NI is the umbrella body for the independent advice network in Northern Ireland
  3. Membership: Advice NI membership currently stands at 57 organisations from across Northern Ireland
  4. Advice NI and its members dealt with 234, 659 enquiries in 2017/18, with the majority being social security benefits related
  5. If you would like to find out more about the work of the Independent Advice Network in your area or you would like to obtain copies of the various publications produced by Advice NI, please contact Advice NI, 1 Rushfield Avenue, Belfast; Telephone 028 90 645919; E-mail info@adviceni.net; Website www.adviceni.net.
  6. The ‘Welfare Reform: Mitigations on a Cliff Edge’ Report is available here www.adviceni.net


Download the Report