Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey appeared before the Committee for Communities this morning to provide an update on her efforts to extend the existing welfare mitigation schemes and to close loopholes that can affect entitlement.
Minister Hargey stressed her personal commitment to progressing the legislation at the earliest possible opportunity and informed the Committee that she has written to the Executive seeking agreement for the introduction of draft legislation for the Bedroom Tax mitigation scheme.
Speaking after the meeting at Parliament Buildings, Minister Hargey said: “As Minister for Communities I am focused on protecting those on low incomes and targeting resources towards those most in need.
“The extension of welfare mitigation schemes is critical to providing certainty for the many people who rely on welfare mitigation payments introduced to offset cuts to benefits as part of Westminster’s welfare reforms.
“Agreement for the extension was included in the New Decade, New Approach Deal as a commitment of the Executive and requires legislation to be approved by the Assembly.
“Once this has been agreed then further legislation will be brought to the Assembly without delay.”
The Department for Communities’ welfare mitigation schemes were introduced in 2016/17 to ‘top-up’ welfare arrangements in the north. The existing schemes provide mitigation payments for people who suffered financial loss due to the introduction of welfare reform from Westminster including the Benefit Cap, Social Sector Size Criteria (the “Bedroom Tax”) and Personal Independence Payment.
Minister Hargey continued: “I had previously secured Executive agreement to continue delivery of the existing mitigation schemes in 2021/22.
“This includes the funding required to close ‘loopholes’ in the Benefit Cap and Social Sector Size Criteria schemes that prevent some people from receiving mitigation payments.
“We as a society will be judged on how we protect the most vulnerable and I will continue with my efforts to have this legislation approved as soon as possible.”