Joint inquiry into Northern Ireland’s welfare policy: Recommendations

The Northern Ireland Affairs and Work and Pensions Committees have published a report on their  joint inquiry into welfare policy. The inquiry explored the operation of Universal Credit and how welfare policy supports people in Northern Ireland. It received written and oral responses from those in receipt of welfare support about their experiences and also from organisations who are campaigning for reform on several aspects of welfare policy in Northern Ireland.

Employers For Childcare provided a written submission to the inquiry outlining several concerns around welfare reform and highlighted how the introduction of Universal Credit has had a negative impact on some families in Northern Ireland. In particular, we highlighted issues relating to how the childcare element of Universal Credit is paid, how this creates difficulties for both parents and childcare providers, and general operational concerns.

Employers For Childcare is part of the Cliff Edge NI coalition, comprised of groups from across the voluntary and community sector, which is campaigning for the extension of welfare reform mitigations in Northern Ireland beyond March 2020. In addition to our own response to this inquiry, we also endorse the evidence provided by the Cliff Edge NI coalition.

The inquiry made several recommendations, mainly focused on the mitigation package that is due to end in March 2020. It strongly advocated for the mitigation package to be extended, to ensure families do not lose out on the financial support they need. It also recommended that in the absence of an Assembly, the Northern Ireland Audit Office should urgently prioritise work on measures to reduce poverty in Northern Ireland.

We are aware that without a functioning Assembly, the Department of Communities cannot make amendments to the existing mitigation legislation. We would fully support an extension to the mitigation package and believe the Secretary of State must act quickly to legislate.

We would advise anyone considering making a claim for Universal Credit to seek personalised advice before doing so. Further information regarding Universal Credit and childcare is available on the ‘Universal Credit’ Factsheet on our website, or call our Family Benefits Advice Service on 028 9267 8200 for free, impartial and confidential advice.