Universal Credit: Inquiry into NI Welfare Policy launched

Northern Ireland's budget for the newly started finical year of 2019-20 was set in Westminster due to the collapse of devolution in Stormont. (Photo Matt Mackey/ PressEye)
Northern Ireland's budget for the newly started finical year of 2019-20 was set in Westminster due to the collapse of devolution in Stormont. (Photo Matt Mackey/ PressEye)

An inquiry has been launched to look at the impact of Welfare policy including Universal Credit and the two-child limit in Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee and the Work and Pensions Committee launched the joint inquiry today (Thursday) to look at how the policy is impacting on people here, with local people getting the opportunity to submit their views.

As Northern Ireland’s budget for the newly started finical year of 2019-20 was set in Westminster due to the collapse of devolution in Stormont, the two Committees are joining together to look at how Northern Ireland’s welfare policy and funding is serving the people of Northern Ireland.

In 2016, the Northern Ireland Executive established a social security ‘mitigation’ package – a pot of £585m of welfare funding to alleviate the impact of policies such as the bedroom tax and the benefit cap.

However, in 2020, this funding deal is due to end and there is no Northern Ireland Executive in place to secure any future welfare funding settlement. The joint inquiry will examine the potential impact of the spending ending in 2020.

The inquiry will also examine the impact in Northern Ireland of the roll-out of Universal Credit – the new welfare system designed to combine benefits into a single payment.

The inquiry will draw on the Work and Pensions Committee’s previous work on the operation of Universal Credit in the UK, which includes several reports on concerns such as the impact of policy on victims of domestic abuse and disabled people.

The inquiry will focus on the effectiveness of ‘alternative payment arrangements’ which enable claimants to spread payments throughout the month, or get payments split between members of their household.

The inquiry will also consider the impact of the two-child limit in Northern Ireland. The Government’s two-child limit policy dictates that families can’t claim child benefits for any third or subsequent child born on or after 6 April 2017.

The Work and Pensions Committee previously found that Northern Ireland has the highest proportion of families who would be affected be the two-child limit, with over half of benefit-claiming families in NI having two or more children.

Nigel Mills MP, who will be chairing the joint inquiry, commented on the launch: “Without a government in Northern Ireland, serious questions about the impact of welfare policies remain unanswered and important concerns risk being ignored.

“The Northern Ireland Affairs and Work and Pensions Committees will share expertise to examine how the people of Northern Ireland are being affected by policies such as Universal Credit and the two-child limit.

“We will also explore how everyday lives might change when social security mitigation payments stop in 2020, and what the UK Government can do to support an effective welfare system in Northern Ireland in the absence of devolved powers.”

People can contribute their views and ideas to the inquiry by submitting written evidence by Friday 24 May 2019.

Anyone can submit written evidence as long as the submission is clear, concise, addresses the terms of reference and is not already published elsewhere. You can respond as an individual, a group or an organisation. You don’t need to answer all of the questions.

People can submit their views via the following link: www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/northern-ireland-affairs-committee/inquiries/parliament-2017/welfare-policy-in-northern-ireland-inquiry-17-19/