Sunday, 26 April 2015

Northern Ireland seeks further welfare concessions

The housing minister for Northern Ireland has said he will continue to talk to the Department for Work and Pensions to gain further concessions for the implementation of welfare reform.

Speaking to the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations conference on Friday, Nelson McCausland said he was meeting minister for welfare reform Lord David Freud in the coming weeks to discuss a programme of reform that is ‘tailored to the specific needs of housing in Northern Ireland’.

Mr McCausland has been widely praised for securing the continuation of payment of the housing element of universal credit directly to landlords, rather than paying it to tenants. He also secured more regular payments of benefits and an extra six months until the majority of the reforms begin.

But he said landlords needed to take a role in ensuring the impact of the reforms for tenants was minimal.

‘Landlords have a key role to play in ensuring that tenants understand the changes,’ he said. ‘My officers are working with the Housing Executive to put together a range of support measures. I would ask all landlords to ensure as far as possible that all options are explored.

‘Dealing with the impacts requires careful consideration.’

He said he was meeting Lord Freud in the coming weeks to continue discussions into the timing and implementation of the reforms.

‘It is certainly important that we work with the British government officials to have a programme of welfare reform that is tailored to the specific needs of housing in Northern Ireland,’ he said.

‘Whatever can be done to mitigate and manage the impact [of welfare reform] in Northern Ireland we will do.’

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