The Department for Communities has bid for funding to mitigate the impact of an end to a £20 weekly uplift for those claiming universal credit, which is being withdrawn across the UK on Wednesday.
he permanent £20 increase to payments was introduced in response to the pandemic and Northern Ireland politicians wanted it to continue but the UK government said it has “always been clear” the uplift was permanent.
There are about 134,000 claimants of universal credit in Northern Ireland – just over a quarter of them in work.
Minister Deirdre Hargey called on Westminster to reverse the reduction and said Stormont departments would struggle to make up the shortfall. She has repeatedly written to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Therese Coffey to address the issue.
Her department has now said it has made a request for funding but the move would require agreement from the Executive. It’s believed an initial bid of £55m has been submitted to come from Stormont’s October monitoring round, a reallocation of spending that takes place quarterly.
A spokesperson for the department said: “The minister has clearly stated that the actions by the British government are outrageous and abhorrent. It is the biggest cut to the basic rate of social security to date.
“Minister Hargey has prioritised sustain for the most unprotected in our society and will continue to do so.
“She has also highlighted that we have to be real about our abilities to mitigate however again another cut by the Tories.”
The spokesperson additional that the budget was “not infinite” and that any decision would be a matter for the Executive.
Ms Hargey has asked that the matter be discussed by the Executive on Thursday.
The lights at Belfast City Hall were turned out for two hours from 8pm on Wednesday to protest against the uplift being removed.
In September, Stormont received an additional £180m from the Treasury which is however to be distributed. It was expected that most if not all of the money would be funnelled towards the Department of Health.
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