NI on brink of ‘welfare mitigations’ disaster

Expert warns of a looming crisis of child poverty, hunger and mass evictions caused by end of mitigations for bedroom tax and benefit cap.
Professor Eileen Evason was the chair of the Welfare Reform Mitigations Working Group established in November 2015 through the 'Fresh Start' agreement, which put in place measures to protect people from the harshest impacts of welfare reform in NI. These measures will end in March 2020.
 
Professor Evason said:
 
“I think we need to be honest with the people of Northern Ireland; as things stand everything stops in March 2020. The payments that protect people from the bedroom tax will end, the payments that protect children from the benefit cap will end. I am extremely concerned about the impact of all of this. Amongst other things, the loss of protection against bedroom tax will cause considerable hardship. Those who think they may be affected should contact their MLA’s and MP’s ASAP .”
 
Kevin Higgins, Advice NI and member of the Welfare Reform Mitigations Working Group added:
 
“We have a mitigation package which has sheltered people from harshest impacts of welfare reform, impacts that are disproportionately greater in Northern Ireland than anywhere else as evidenced by the recent Commons Joint Committee report. We have inadequate, segregated social housing; we have higher rates of disability; we have larger family sizes; all of which places our most vulnerable low income families at grave risk of destitution and homelessness when the payments they rely upon end in March 2020.”
 
Speaking about what needs to happen to avoid this looming disaster, Professor Evason said:
 
“Our Department for Communities has been clear that that the funding for the current mitigations schemes will end on 31 March 2020. Similarly, the legislation providing for each of the mitigations schemes will cease to have effect from 31 March 2020. Any proposal to extend the existing welfare mitigations beyond this termination date will therefore require the Department to bring forward new legislation.”
 
“Therefore in the absence of an Assembly we need the NI Secretary of State to pass the necessary legislation at Westminster to extend the mitigations. There is no other way to avoid this looming crisis. All organisations and advice agencies concerned about this looming crisis will need to advise the communities they serve on what is happening and the importance of raising any concerns they have with their political representatives.”
 
If you are worried about the mitigations cliff edge or want help with you social security benefits, please call the independent welfare changes Helpline 0808 802 0020.
 
KEY CONCERNS
 
Bedroom Tax set to hit Northern Ireland from March 2020
34,000 Bedroom Tax households set to lose support totalling £22million
Fears of a housing crisis, as thousands and perhaps tens of thousands of tenants find themselves unable to pay their rent, falling into arrears and over the cliff edge of eviction
Affected Bedroom Tax households set to lose on average £12.50 per week
 
Benefit Cap set to hit Northern Ireland from March 2020
1,500 Benefit Cap families with children set to loose support totalling £3million
Affected Benefit Cap households set to lose on average £47 per week
Children in the firing line as all of the households protected from benefit cap are families with children
 
Sick, disabled and carers impacted by March 2020 cliffedge
Thousands of sick, disabled and their carers set to see their mitigations support prematurely end in March 2020




NOTES:
  1. For further information contact 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. Advice NI Mitigations Media Briefing Paper -   https://www.adviceni.net/sites/default/files/downloads/mitigations_media_briefing_paper.pdf
  4. 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, email –comms@adviceni.net or visit our www.adviceni.net