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Westminster committee echoes McCausland’s concerns on universal credit payments

Minister McCausland’s stance on flexible payments arrangements for Northern Ireland has been ‘justified’ following the publication of a report produced by the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee.
Friday, 21 December 2012

The Committee has published its third report on the Welfare Reform Bill, “Meeting the needs of vulnerable claimants” which makes recommendations to the Department for Work and Pensions on how to protect the most vulnerable in society. Concerns were raised about the possibility of vulnerable people falling into arrears due to the Housing Element of Universal Credit being paid directly to them, rather than to their landlords.

It is thought that those most vulnerable households, who already struggle to manage their finances, may find transition difficult. The Committee states that although the Government will use an “exceptions” process to identify and support such claimants, there is a risk that these claimants may only be identified once they are already experiencing difficulties.

Minister McCausland said: “Since taking up post as Minister for Social Development I have had concerns regarding the payment arrangements for Universal Credit and that was the reason why I started the negotiations with Lord Freud. The House of Commons Work and Pensions report supports my position that we protect the most vulnerable people in society and the need to ensure that we tailor these reforms for the people of Northern Ireland .”

Through discussions with Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform, Minister McCausland secured flexible payment arrangements under Universal Credit which will allow split payments between couples, payments to be made twice monthly where it is deemed necessary to support those most vulnerable claimants, and default payment of the housing element of Universal Credit direct to landlords.

The Minister continued: “My Department is currently engaging with the advice, community, and voluntary sectors on the flexible payment arrangements for Northern Ireland. This will ensure that we have the most effective criteria for split payments and more frequent payments in advance of claimants experiencing difficulties, and will also inform the policy on if and when a claimant can opt out of direct payment to landlords. Public listening events will be held in Belfast and Londonderry in January to hear the views of the public."

Notes to editors:

  1. 1. The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee report, “Universal Credit implementation: “Meeting the needs of vulnerable claimants” can be accessed at http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/publications/
  2. 2. Media enquiries to DSD Information Office on 028 9082 9496. Out of office hours please contact Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715440 and your call will be returned