Wed, 30 Nov 2022

Hargey welcomes independent review panel's findings on welfare mitigations

Northern Ireland Executive
25 Oct 2022, 21 GMT+10

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has welcomed the findings of an independent review of welfare mitigation schemes published by the Department for Communities today.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has welcomed the findings of an independent review of welfare mitigation schemes published by the Department for Communities today.

The review, carried out by an independent panel of experts appointed by Minister Hargey and chaired by former Chief Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission, Les Allamby, was tasked with completing a review of existing welfare mitigation measures and making recommendations for a future package of payments.

Welfare mitigation schemes are unique here and were implemented in response to financial hardship caused by welfare reform in Westminster.

The panel has underlined the need for existing welfare mitigation schemes to continue and has recommended a further series of mitigation payments.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said,

"Earlier this year I ensured around 37,000 households here are now fully protected from the "bedroom tax" and families with children affected by the benefit cap now receive payments equivalent to the loss of benefits brought about by Westminster welfare reforms.

"These protections have proven vital in light of the severe cost of living crisis.

"The independent review was an opportunity to assess the need for a new mitigation package that is designed to deliver a more compassionate social security system for the future."

The panel's recommendations include: more support for children and young people; for people providing care; and for those in low-paid employment, with specific measures such as the following:

           Offsetting the two child limit in Universal Credit, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit only claims

           A Better Start Grant payment to low income families

           Additional support to carers via 'carer recognition payments' and increasing the earnings allowance before carers allowance is withdrawn

           A cost of work allowance including a job start grant, and retaining underlying entitlement to Universal Credit for six months when taking up employment

   Further support for winter fuel costs

Minister Hargey continued,

"I am particularly pleased the independent panel has recognised the importance of providing financial support for children through a range of measures including offsetting the two-child policy.

"Proposed additional support for carers and for winter fuel costs are also welcome.

"The need for this unique package of support is greater than ever but we must also ensure that it is ready for the new challenges that so many people are facing."

Minister Hargey concluded:

"I would like to thank the panel chair, Les Allamby and the other panel members for the comprehensive work carried out and their recommendations for a balanced mitigation package for the future.

"While I fully support the recommendations in the report the implementation of any new mitigation schemes will require Executive agreement on the allocation of necessary funding."

Panel chair Les Allamby said,

"The Department for Communities' social security mitigations provide much-needed longer-term support for people on low incomes and make a real difference to their financial and overall wellbeing.

"The panel's review outlines how this can be enhanced including: recognising the role of full-time carers, removing the two-child limit from Universal Credit and targeting support for low income families at key points in their children's development.

"The recommendations are meaningful, credible, realistic and costed and are designed to provide assistance beyond the current income crisis.

"Many people were already struggling before inflation, fuel costs and interest rate hikes and will continue to do so without longer-term and targeted supports such as those outlined in the report."

The report is available on the Department's website at https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/articles/welfare-mitigation-review

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