ADVICE NI IS HIGHLIGHTING the fact that 116,000 households in Northern Ireland in receipt of Universal Credit will face poverty and hardship if the UK Government presses ahead with plans to cut £20 per week from October.

Kevin Higgins, Head of Policy at Advice NI said: “Based on statistics provided by the Department for Communities, the proposed £20 cut to Universal Credit will impact on families with children, which make up 42 per cent of households in receipt of Universal Credit, so this cut will directly impact on the lives and prospects of children. Of course the impact is compounded by a decade of austerity which has included a benefit freeze and the two child cap which has already disproportionately impacted on families with children.”

“In addition, the assertion by [the UK] Government that it wants to focus on jobs as a route out of poverty does not deal with the issue, and in fact demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of Universal Credit. Claimants are not a homogeneous group of people. For example, 40 per cent of households in receipt of Universal Credit have ‘No Work’ requirements, for example they are severely ill or indeed terminally ill, and so unfortunately work is not an option for them and so is not a solution to the £20 cut.”

“Quite simply, as we move towards winter and escalating food and fuel costs, Advice NI is calling for the Government to retain the £20 and make it permanent.”

Advice NI has released figures showing the impact of the Universal Credit cut across Northern Ireland.  In specific areas of Belfast for instance, the numbers of claimants affected are:

  • Andersonstown 4,430
  • Falls Road 3,810
  • Holywood Road 5,860
  • Knockbreda 4,740
  • North Belfast 7,100
  • Shaftesbury Square 4,270
  • Shankill 2,690

Universal Credit payment arrangements differ between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In Great Britain, Universal Credit is paid once per month directly to the claimant, including any housing allowances. In Northern Ireland, flexibilities put in place to help the transition to Universal Credit include more frequent payments (twice per month) and the facility for payment of rent direct to the landlord. Payment can also be split between members of a household.

Advice NI is the umbrella body for the Independent Advice Network in Northern Ireland. In 2019/2020 they dealt with 540,983 enquiries, the majority being social security benefits.related.

* Data on Universal Credit in Northern Ireland here.

* Source: Advice NI