‘Paramilitary lenders are a particular issue’

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A Derry housing expert has argued for more affordable credit to be made available to people to protect them from paramilitary loan sharks.

Kate McCauley, policy manager with Housing Rights, said cash and credit-straitened tenants were in some circumstances being forced to go to proscribed organisations in order to get money to be able to pay their bills.

“There are a range of different mechanisms through which we could support people to access affordable credit, for example, because we know that when people do not have enough money, they still need the money so they are going to get it somewhere.

“In Northern Ireland we have particular issues around paramilitary lenders, for example, so there is a need to ensure that people can access support in a way that is affordable and meets their needs and does not put them further into debt and further into hardship,” she said.

Ms. McCauley made the revelation during a briefing of the e NI Affairs Committee’s ongoing welfare inquiry.

During the evidence session Ms. McCauley criticised the roll-out of the new Universal Credit catch-all benefit system in the North.

She estimated that rolling welfare reforms in the North have taken, on average, £650 per person per year out of the local economy compared with £470 in England.

“The Housing Executive released information that identified that of its tenants who were on Universal Credit over 90 per cent of them were in arrears compared to 40 per cent of those who were still on Housing Benefit, and the amount of arrears has increased significantly as well,” she stated.