The mitigation measure was introduced because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but its removal will see tens of thousands of households across the north lose in the region of £1000 of their annual income.
The Communities Committee, of which Mr. Durkan is a member, has written to the UK government urging them ‘to do the right thing’ to protect low-income individuals and their families.
The Foyle MLA commented: “It is disgraceful during a time of recovery, when society struggles to get back on its feet post-COVID, that the Tory government intends to withdraw this crucial support from vulnerable families and their children.
“These are households who have been the hardest hit by COVID-19 and who were most at risk of deprivation pre-pandemic. The term ‘uplift’ has been bandied around but in reality, this additional support simply made bearable the consequences of the pandemic and mitigated against the worst outcomes for already struggling families.”
He said the £20 increase had been long overdue and should have been implemented regardless of the precarious position society has been pushed into over the past 15 months.
It is absolutely vital that this supported is secured on a permanent basis, he declared.
“Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation highlights that families with children, particularly single parent families, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) families and families where someone is disabled, will be worse off should this provision be removed. Notably, over a third of UC claimants are in employment and therefore more vulnerable to losing hours and income.
“This is money that is spent locally, supporting local businesses and by extension local jobs. Removing it will have far reaching impacts not just for claimants but for our local economy,” said the SDLP MLA.
Mr. Durkan said the full consequences of COVID on our economy and citizens, have yet to be felt and described how we are now in the ‘eye of the storm.’
“As other COVID support comes to an end in the months ahead and the predicted rise in unemployment, it is crucial that this provision is kept.
“Not only that but the cruel two child limit and benefits cap must be scrapped and legislation to close the loopholes in Welfare Mitigations must be brought forward.”
Mr Durkan said the need for a cogent anti-poverty strategy has never been more evident, yet the publication of that “vital piece of work” from by Department of Communities is still awaited.
“Considering the population of Northern Ireland are the most at risk of poverty across these islands, abandoning the benefit uplift now is a cruel move which risks plunging hundreds of thousands of people into hardship. Families and children here deserve certainty and security in these challenging times.
“The Tory government must keep the lifeline.”