Advice NI welcomes Joint Committee report on ‘Welfare Policy in NI’

Reacting to the Joint Committee report, Advice NI today welcomed the conclusions and recommendations:
  • urging the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to commit to legislation which will extend the social security mitigation package in Northern Ireland, citing concerns that welfare claimants will face a ‘cliff edge’.
  • calling on the Government to halt the implementation of the two-child limit in Northern Ireland and to reimburse any families who have been affected thus far, pending a full investigation into its financial impact on families with children and the potential discrimination against those with larger families and poorer communities.
  • calling on the Department for Communities to consider continuing the contract for independent advisory services after 2020.
Bob Stronge, Advice NI Chief Executive said:
 
“Advice NI was part of the original Welfare Reform Mitigations Working Group led by Professor Eileen Evason which developed the mitigations package to address the harshest impacts of welfare reform in NI; a package which was commended by the Joint Committee report as striking a good balance between protecting the vulnerable within the available financial constraints.
 
The Joint Committee has been crystal clear in it’s recommendations which include: the looming March 2020 mitigations cliffedge needs to be addressed; the implementation of the two-child limit in Northern Ireland needs to be halted with reimbursement for any families who have been affected thus far; and furthermore that the Department for Communities consider rolling over the contract for independent advisory services after 2020.”

 
Nigel Mills MP, a member of the Norther Ireland Affairs Committee, who has been chairing the joint inquiry, commented on the report:
 
“Welfare claimants in Northern Ireland cannot be left to shoulder the costs of inadequate social housing stock and the devastating impact left behind by the Troubles. Thousands of claimants are relying upon the social security mitigation package - it cannot be allowed to suddenly stop because the corridors and benches of Stormont lie empty.
 
Our joint report today calls for the Secretary of State to recognise the gravity of this situation, and to urgently introduce legislation to Westminster to extend the mitigation package beyond March 2020. If this does not happen, thousands of households in Northern Ireland will see their monthly income fall sharply with some losing hundreds of pounds per month. There is a clear consensus among the main political parties in Northern Ireland that the package can continue, and the Government have taken important Northern Ireland legislation through Westminster in the past two years. They should take the same approach to this vital issue of social security.”

 
NOTES:
  1. For further information contact Bob Stronge, CEO or Kevin Higgins, Head of Policy, Advice NI on 028 9064 5919 / 07743496957
  2. Advice NI is the umbrella body for the Independent Advice Network in Northern Ireland and its members dealt with 234, 659 enquiries in 2017/18, the majority being social security benefits related.
  3. The Work and Pensions & Northern Ireland Affairs Committees report on ‘Welfare Policy in NI’ is available at https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmworpen/2100/2100.pdf
  4. The ‘Welfare Reform: Mitigations on a Cliff Edge’ Report produced by Advice NI, Housing Rights and Law Centre NI is available here  www.adviceni.net
  5. To find out more about the work of the Independent Advice Network or to obtain copies of the various publications produced by Advice NI, please contact us on 028 90 645919; info@adviceni.net; or visit www.adviceni.net.