WAVE Trauma Centre has joined a broad coalition of organisations concerned about the cessation of the current welfare reform mitigations in Northern Ireland. The ‘Cliff Edge NI Coalition,’ is calling on the government to extend welfare reform mitigation payments which are set to run out in March 2020. The welfare reform mitigations package was agreed at the NI Assembly in 2015 to protect Northern Ireland benefit claimants from the full impact of extensive welfare reforms such as the effects of migrating from DLA to PIP, and the effects of the Bedroom tax when it was introduced to Northern Ireland on 20th February 2017. However this protection is set to end from April 2020 when over 34000 NI tenants will have to pay the bedroom tax unless further mitigations are put in place by the government.
What is the bedroom tax? The bedroom tax is a reduction in Housing Benefit for people who live in a property that is owned by NIHE or a Housing Association that is too large for their household. Its proper name is the “social sector size criteria”, but most people call it the “bedroom tax”. It will only affect those under pension age.
The Welfare Advice Team at WAVE Trauma Centre are particularly concerned about the effect of the Bedroom tax at a time when the government is intending to migrate those on income based benefits under pension age onto Universal Credit between 2020 and 2023. The design and payment delays in the Universal credit system, combined with the bedroom tax mean that many people will struggle financially and face rent arrears. The effect of Brexit on food and utility prices is another uncertainty.
Our advice in the run up to Christmas is to be realistic about what you can afford to spend, and try to avoid getting into debt which has to be repaid next year. Repaying debt will be really difficult if housing benefit or Universal credit is cut. Now is the time to try and put some money aside, however small each week due to the pending uncertainty, although we recognise that this will be extremely difficult if not impossible for low income households.”