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Coronavirus: Universal credit claims in ten-fold increase in Northern Ireland

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Deirdre Hargey, Minister for Communities during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Wednesday. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Deirdre Hargey, Minister for Communities during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Wednesday. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Deirdre Hargey, Minister for Communities during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Wednesday. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

There have been 45,000 new claims have been made for universal credit in the last three weeks in a 10-fold increase, communities minister Deirdre Hargey has said.

She made the announcement during Wednesday afternoon’s daily Covid-19 briefing at Stormont Castle.

Since Monday, March 16, jobseekers allowance and employment support allowance has doubled and the demand for discretionary support has tripled with almost 10,000 calls per day.

Ms Hargey added that reassessments for health and disability benefits have also been extended for the next three months.

Meanwhile, an agreement has also been put in place with all social housing landlords that tenants facing difficulties paying their rent due to the Covid-19 emergency will not be evicted, while the Housing Executive rent increase has been put on hold for the next six months.

Sinn Fein’s South Belfast MLA also revealed a food parcel delivery service will initially see up to 10,400 boxes of goods delivered to the most vulnerable in society during the coronavirus lockdown.

Commenting on the new food parcel delivery service, Ms Hargey said: “This vital service will ensure that those most in need in our society and who do not have support or family members to help them through this emergency will have basic access to food.

“Not only will it ensure that the most vulnerable do not go without, but it will also ensure that those at risk in isolation see a friendly face and know that we as a society have not forgotten them.

“This is an example of genuine collaboration across the public, community and voluntary, and private sectors.

“With social distancing and shielding measures in place for the foreseeable future to protect health, this service will be a crucial lifeline for many.”

Belfast Telegraph