Belfast Telegraph

Welfare reforms cost lone parents £2,250 a year in Northern Ireland

Lone parents in Northern Ireland are losing around £2,250 on average a year due to tax and welfare reforms, a new report has revealed. (Chris Radburn/PA)
Lone parents in Northern Ireland are losing around £2,250 on average a year due to tax and welfare reforms, a new report has revealed. (Chris Radburn/PA)
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

Lone parents in Northern Ireland are losing around £2,250 on average a year due to tax and welfare reforms, a new report has revealed.

Low income families and those with disabilities have been hardest hit by social security reform, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) said.

Their research examined the impact of reforms introduced in Northern Ireland since 2010 through to everything planned until 2022.

It also analyses the value of the mitigations package agreed by the Stormont Executive, which is due to expire in March. In September the Northern Ireland Affairs and Work and Pensions Committees published a joint report calling on Secretary of State Julian Smith to commit to legislation which will extend the social security mitigations package here.

Welfare mitigations, introduced to soften the impact of UK-wide welfare reforms like the 'bedroom tax' in Northern Ireland, were introduced in 2016.

The committees warned that unless Mr Smith takes urgent action, tens of thousands of households in Northern Ireland would see their incomes suddenly fall, some by hundreds of pounds per month.

They said that Northern Ireland's special circumstances means the region would be disproportionately impacted by UK-wide welfare policies like the bedroom tax, which reduces the housing benefit entitlement of working-age tenants if they live in housing deemed to be too large for their needs.

The NIHRC report's authors set out the impact of reforms on different income groups by household composition, including lone parents and other families, by age, gender and disability.

The impacts are especially dramatic for lone parents, who have lost around £2,250 on average per year, while households with at least one disabled child experience annual average losses of around £2,000.

The report also finds that households with three or more children experience overall average losses of around £2,575 per year - in comparison to average losses of £50 for households with one child.

Women are worse affected than men because they are more likely to be receiving tax credits and other social security benefits.

Chief Commissioner Les Allamby said the research demonstrates those with the broadest backs are not bearing the heaviest load.

"We need a tax and social security system which provides help where most needed - for those on low incomes," he added.

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