Hargey vows to challenge Tories’ £ 20 benefit cut

A Stormont minister pledges to act if the UK government targets the weekly £ 20 increase for universal credit recipients.

Deidre Hargey of the Fein Hostel is insisting that Boris Johnson and the Cabinet maintain the payment amid a growing cost-of-living crisis.

But if they fail, the Communities Minister says she will cushion the impact through welfare mitigation measures for local households.

An official announcement on how the stopgap will work is expected in the coming weeks.

Northern Ireland has a total of 118,510 households with universal credit, according to the most recent figures, and the monthly increase of £ 86 is set to end on 5 October.

It was introduced when it became apparent that many welfare homes were struggling due to the Covid-19 pandemic and was subsequently extended for six months.

The NI Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA) said it had been used to help pay for essential services such as phones and broadband, “keep families connected,” as well as groceries and other items. household goods which have seen their prices increase.

NIFHA Deputy Director General Patrick Thompson said: “It has not been a luxury payment but a vital payment during an extremely difficult time. Its removal will mean tough choices about what bills to pay. “

Minister Hargey and her counterparts from the decentralized administrations in Edinburgh and Cardiff wrote a joint letter to the Department for Work and Pensions in London.

And the former Lord Mayor of Belfast also wrote directly to Therese Coffey, the Minister for Work and Pensions, saying the increase “has been a lifeline for some of the most vulnerable people in our society and that the withdrawal at this time will cause great distress and financial hardship. ”.

But now, in a number of written responses from the Assembly, she promises to include the additional payment in a review of welfare mitigation measures.

She was responding to Alliance MP Kellie Armstrong who warned that the £ 20 per week cut in their income would hit vulnerable people and children “who are still affected by the long-term effects of Covid, such as increased cost of living “.

A statement on behalf of Ms Hargey said she had made it clear “the UK government must maintain the increase, this support is vital. This proposed UK government cut is another blow to people here.”

The Department for Communities, which oversees social benefits, already offers a number of programs designed to support those affected by budget cuts introduced from London as a result of changes to the social security system.

“Minister Hargey is committed to advancing a comprehensive review of welfare mitigation measures. An announcement on the format of the exam will be made in the coming weeks, ”added a spokesperson.

“Right now the Communities Minister is calling on the UK government to do the right thing and keep the £ 20 increase in UC.”

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