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Social Workers call for action to avert welfare reform catastrophe

The British Association of Social Workers Northern Ireland (BASW NI) has written to the Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland and Work and Pensions calling for the Government to avoid damaging consequences in Northern Ireland by extending the existing welfare reform mitigation package beyond March 2020.

A recent report by two influential Westminster Committees—the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee and the Work and Pensions Committee—indicates that unless new measures are put in place, 34,000 households in Northern Ireland will lose an average of £12.50 per week because of the “bedroom tax” and 1,500 households will be worse off by £42 per week on average because of the benefits cap.

Speaking about the need for action, BASW NI National Director Carolyn Ewart, said: “In the absence of a Northern Ireland Executive and functioning Assembly, BASW NI has called on the Westminster Government to legislate to extend the current mitigation package for another four years. Failure to do so will mean significant hardship for many thousands of individuals and families.  

“BASW NI has also called on the Government to act on the committees’ recommendation to halt the implementation of the Universal Credit two-child limit in Northern Ireland and to reimburse any families who have been affected by it. This limit has a huge impact on the finances of struggling families as it prevents a family from accessing benefits worth £2,780 a year, for a third, or additional child born since 6 April 2017.

We support the committees’ assessment that the limit may discriminate against families which are larger due to moral or religious convictions and that in Northern Ireland, Catholic families are particularly likely to be affected in this way.”

The effect of the two-child limit in extending the reach and deepening the impact of poverty across the UK has been widely highlighted, notably in valuable research conducted by the Child Poverty Action Group and the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. Growth in poverty will exacerbate the social problems which increase demand for social work services and will also heighten pressure on the health service and criminal justice sector.

Ms Ewart finished by saying: “The clock is ticking down and the time to act is now. BASW NI has written to the leaders of all the main political parties in Northern Ireland urging them to support the campaign for continued welfare reform mitigation and the removal of the Universal Credit two-child cap. It is important that our politicians work together to ensure the Government delivers for the vulnerable individuals and families that rely on the protection of the current welfare reform mitigation measures and that the Universal Credit two-child cap is discarded.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

  • The British Association of Social Workers is the largest professional body for social workers across the UK. The Association has over 21,000 members employed in frontline, management, academic and research positions in all care settings.
  • BASW NI Public Affairs and Communications Officer Andy McClenaghan is available for interview
  • The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee / Work and Pensions Committee report is available from https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmniaf/2100/210003.htm

 

Contact—Andy McClenaghan, BASW NI Public Affairs and Communications Officer, Phone: 028 9064 8873, Mobile: 07702 517560, Email: andy.mcclenaghan@basw.co.uk

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