Cllr Rachel Woods concerned about impact of welfare reforms on poverty levels

Tuesday February 20 2018

Green Party councillor Rachel Woods said she is deeply worried by the Poverty in Northern Ireland report published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation showing that one in five people are living in poverty.

The latest data revealed 370,000 people in Northern Ireland live in poverty, consisting of 110,000 children, 220,000 working-age adults and 40,000 pensioners.

“The report noted that in Northern Ireland, mitigation measures were being implemented to limit the impacts of certain benefit reforms which are being rolled out in the UK,” the Bangor East councillor said.

“These measures include protecting people affected by various cuts to disability benefits for up to one year only, protecting some families with children from the impact of the benefit cap up to March 2020, extending discretionary support, particularly for those transitioning to Universal Credit, and not implementing the Under- Occupancy Penalty.”

Estimates from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) suggest that in 2017-18, 2,500 families will be over £50 worse off per week than they would have been before the introduction of the Two Child Cap on Tax Credits and Universal Credit.

“I would envision that the financial problems people are experiencing on their current benefits would only increase when the welfare changes come into action, especially with notable effects benefit changes have on some families,” Councillor Woods said.

“Universal Credit is to be rolled out in Northern Ireland by December 2018, three months later than expected.

“Already, there is evidence coming through from Citizens Advice and other advice organisations of the negative effects that the changes in welfare have had and those entering offices to seek advice represent only a small fraction of people that are struggling within the community.

“By its very nature, Universal Credit has a six-week waiting period before applicants receive any financial benefit.

“Six weeks is a long time without any cash flow, and it is a very long time to wait before there is money for food, heating, rent, clothing and electricity. I am deeply worried about the impact this is likely to have on families that are already struggling. I would encourage people to go and seek advice as soon as possible if they are worried,” Councillor Woods said.

 

ENDS

Media Contact: Linda Stewart

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