Northern Ireland

Welfare reform: Proposals to mitigate impact on benefit claimants published

Welfare reform

Proposals to mitigate the impact of UK-wide welfare reforms in Northern Ireland have been published.

The scheme has been published by a group led by Eileen Evason, a professor in social administration.

It comes in more than £80m under the £585m budget assigned to it as part of November's Fresh Start deal.

The scheme proposes a series of supplementary payments to carers, people suffering ill health and families on low incomes.

It also proposes that resources originally allocated to help those losing out due to tax credit cuts be used to help those affected by the introduction of universal credit.


The Evason group is also funding a system of independent advice to help claimants deal with the changes.

Prof Evason believes the regime of harsh sanctions already introduced elsewhere in the UK has led to deaths and suicides.

She hopes a monitoring and protection system here will avoid some of the worst consequences of welfare reform.

Although the overall mitigation scheme is due to last for four years, each individual claimant will get help for just one year after being deemed eligible.

Image caption The report was published by a group led by Prof Eileen Evason

Claimants who lose more than £10 a week as a result of the phasing out of Disability Living Allowance will get payments equal to 75% of their loss.

The report includes a proposal that claimants who have a conflict-related injury and are deemed ineligible for the new Personal Independence Payments should get extra points to help them qualify for help.

As expected, the mitigation scheme covers Stormont's decision not to introduce the spare room subsidy, also known as the bedroom tax.

The report also includes recommendations that Stormont should pilot strategies to tackle food poverty, potentially through a network of community food shops, social stores and supermarkets.

Prof Evason says she had a positive meeting on Monday with the first and deputy first ministers and she is confident they will adopt her working group's proposals.

She has suggested to the ministers that they should divert the £84m her group has not allocated to health and projects for vulnerable people.

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