Local political pressure prompts ministers to take action on UC (rather than just complaining).

Claire Simpson in the Irish News yesterday wrote about some last minute developments in regard to the £20 cut in universal credit:

STORMONT is coming under increasing pressure to find the £55 million needed to mitigate against the cut in Universal Credit.

Ministers will today discuss how to help low-income families after the £20-a-week increase to Universal Credit, brought in to support claimants during the pandemic, was officially withdrawn yesterday.

The cut will see more than 130,000 people in Northern Ireland lose £1,040 a year.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has asked First Minister Paul Givan and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill to direct Finance Minister Conor Murphy to find the £55m needed to continue to fund the uplift until the end of the financial year.

“The cut to Universal Credit represents the largest overnight reduction to basic social security rates since the Second World War and is a direct attack on people in our communities least able to bear that burden,” he said.

In the UK as a whole 4.4 million households, with 5.1m adults and 3.5m children, saw incomes fall by £1,000 overnight. For 1 million households that meant an immediate loss of over 10% of their income as we take the basic rate of benefits to its lowest level since 1990.

In the Bel Tel Eimear McGovern writes that the Minister for Communities has responded by announcing she will bid for the £55 million it will take to fill the gap:

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.

What makes UC so deadly is the taper on payments that means that in work claimants have to find up to 9 extra hours work to make up the shortfall (not just the £20 the Work and Pensions Secretary thought).

Good to seem local political pressure prompting ministers to take some action rather than just complaining.