Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has announced the appointment of an Independent Advisory Panel to review welfare mitigation measures in the north.
The Independent Advisory Panel will be chaired by Les Allamby, former Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.
Mr Allamby will be joined by independent panel members and departmental officials with expertise in the field of social security and experience of dealing with people who access social security benefits.
The independent panel members include Louise Coyle, NI Rural Women’s Network; Liam Devine, Clanrye Group; Craig Harrison, Marie Curie; Kerry Logan, Cliff Edge NI Coalition and Housing Rights; Sinead McKinley, North Belfast Advice Partnership; Mark Simpson, UC:Us and Ulster University; Koulla Yiasouma, NI Commissioner for Children and Young People; and Jonathan Portes of King’s College, London.
The panel have recently commenced work and are expected to produce a final report by February 2022.
Minister Hargey said,
“The welfare mitigation schemes were introduced in 2016 for a four year period ending on 31 March 2020.
“In the New Decade, New Approach Deal, the Executive agreed to extend the mitigation schemes and committed to a priority review of the welfare mitigation measures.
“I am clear that the need for this unique package of financial support is greater than ever and therefore I believe now is an appropriate time to commence the review.
“In carrying out the comprehensive review, I have asked the panel to engage with a wide range of people who access the social security system and with key stakeholders so that their voices are heard on these important issues.
“The panel will examine the effectiveness of the existing welfare mitigation schemes, consider if there is continuing need for those schemes and identify the need for a future mitigation package to be considered by the Executive.”
Panel chair Les Allamby said:
“The current mitigations scheme has limited the adverse impact of issues such as the social size sector criteria and benefit cap for families.
“With the loss of the extra £20 a week in Universal Credit, the end of the furlough scheme and the increase in fuel prices, the need for social security mitigations to go towards keeping people out of poverty remains as important as ever.
“I am delighted to take on this important role with my panel colleagues. We look forward to hearing from people on social security and those working with claimants to consider the best way forward.”
Notes to editors:
- The Department for Communities currently administers a number of Executive approved welfare mitigation schemes which were originally introduced as part of the Fresh Start Agreement to alleviate the impact of specific changes to the social security system. The schemes were introduced in 2016 for a four year period ending on 31 March 2020.
- In the New Decade, New Approach Deal of January 2020, the Executive committed to extending the mitigation schemes beyond March 2020. The Department subsequently received an allocation of £40.3 million from the Executive to continue with the existing mitigations in 2020/21. This was followed by an allocation of £48 million for the 2021/22 financial year. The Executive have now agreed that the mitigation schemes should continue for a further three years.
- The New Decade New Approach Deal also included a commitment to a priority review of welfare mitigation measures. Minister Hargey has determined that this review should be taken forward by an Independent Advisory Panel with a final report produced by February 2022.
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