Bedroom tax long-term protection for 37,000 confirmed in NI - Hargey

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Tens of thousands of households now have long-term protection from the so-called ‘Bedroom Tax’ because of legislation passed by the Assembly this week, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has said.

The Minister said that by removing the end date for qualifying for support, this legislation will provide ‘much needed and continued assistance’ to around 37,000 households, including some of the most vulnerable in society by ‘shielding them from the financial impact of this cruel Tory tax’.

“The legislation also requires the Department for Communities to monitor and report on the operation of the bespoke welfare mitigation schemes we have in place here. This is something I feel is particularly important in order to ensure we can continue to target support where it is most needed,” Minister Hargey said.

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“The report will also provide the basis for a future assessment of the welfare mitigation schemes and whether other amendments or extensions are required in order to protect people as much as possible.”

Communities Minister Deirdre HargeyCommunities Minister Deirdre Hargey
Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey

The Minister addeed: “I want to thank all those who have given their support to this important Bill and to its speedy progression through the Assembly within such a short space of time. I also welcome the positive response to this Bill from those organisations who were at the forefront of the campaign to extend welfare mitigation payments and to ensure that we did not introduce a new cliff edge for the people who depend on these payments.”

Chair of the NI Welfare Reform Mitigations Working Group, Professor Eileen Evason said: “I am delighted that a political consensus has been reached regarding our vital welfare mitigations. “These were introduced in 2016 to give the most vulnerable protection against the swingeing benefit cuts being imposed on the UK as a whole which have been deeply damaging.

“All available evidence clearly references our long term issues which necessitate long term mitigation. The bedroom tax would be particularly harmful here given the make-up of our social housing stock, therefore putting the bedroom tax mitigation on a permanent footing is to be welcomed and will avoid the arrears and evictions seen elsewhere.

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“Similarly, the benefit cap, which entirely impacts on families with children and where families have their needs assessed and are then deliberately awarded lower support, is particularly cruel and hurtful towards women and children. Continued mitigation is also to be welcomed, together with the continuation of mitigations directed towards people with disabilities and their carers.

“I would wish to acknowledge the considerable effort and contribution made by a wide range of representative bodies on this issue, not least Minister Hargey and political representatives across all parties who have acted to protect the most vulnerable in our society at a time of particular hardship and crisis.”