The Cliff Edge Coalition’s history and our new Campaign:
The Cliff Edge Coalition is a group of over 100 organisations from across Northern Ireland, which was formed in 2018 to highlight shared concerns over the potential ‘cliff edge’ created by the ending of the welfare mitigations package in 2020.
A successful campaign led to the Northern Ireland Assembly legislating to indefinitely retain the mitigations for the Social Sector Size Criteria (bedroom tax), close the loopholes which had prevented many claimants from accessing financial assistance through the mitigation scheme and extend the Benefit Cap mitigations until 2025.
The Coalition has highlighted that Northern Ireland now faces another ‘cliff edge’ with many families facing poverty and struggling to make ends meet. This situation is further exacerbated by the current Cost of Living crisis.
The Welfare Mitigations Independent Review Report was published in October 2022 and outlined the Panel’s recommendations, while the Coalition fully endorses all these recommendations, as a Coalition we have decided to focus on three primary asks during our Campaign:
- Resolving the five week wait in Universal Credit
- Mitigating the two-child limit
- Providing support to private renters affected by the Local Housing Allowance
Read more about the new Campaign in our May Member Briefing: CEC-Full-Member-Briefing-May-2023-.pdf (lawcentreni.org)
The Relaunch Event
At the Relaunch, the Coalition Working Group called on the wider Coalition and elected representatives to advocate and promote these asks through their own policy work and manifestos.
The launch began with Sarah Corrigan, Law Centre NI Director of Innovation and Engagement, opening the event, welcoming all guests and providing an overview of the Coalition journey so far.
Sarah, then passed the floor to the guest speaker, Les Allamby, Discretionary Support Commissioner, who was the Chair of The Independent Review Panel and who continues to actively advocate for the recommended changes.
Les spoke of the dire situation which faces many families in Northern Ireland. He described the successful extension of the bedroom tax mitigations as a ‘starting point rather than an end point’ and discussed recommendations and options available in the absence of an executive. Worryingly, Les also advised the audience of substantial cuts of 75% to the Discretionary Support budget, which will negatively impact families in Northern Ireland. He acknowledged much needed to be done and supported the Coalition’s important work in this respect.
Next to speak was Gillian Graham, Law Centre NI Social Security Policy Officer. Gillian advised the wider coalition and attending MLAs about the impact of the two-child limit of Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit. Gillian explained that the policy, which is effective for third and subsequent children born after 6 April 2017, has had a detrimental impact on families, with a loss of over £3000 per year, equating to £62 per week; further compounding an already dire situation of the cost-of-living crisis. Gillian highlighted the shocking levels of poverty amongst children in Northern Ireland, with approximately 100,000 affected, the particular unfairness in Northern Ireland given our typical larger family size, and the disproportionate impact on women in NI through their increased reliance on the Social Security system and lack of reproductive choice.
Local Housing Allowance
The final ‘ask’ was introduced by Stephen Morrison, Housing Rights Policy Co-Ordinator, who spoke about the Local Housing Allowance freeze experienced by private renters. Stephen emphasised the average shortfall between social security assistance and contractual rent is now £118 per month. A case study presented to the audience stressed the difficulty a young woman experienced, with just £15 to buy food, heat and electric for a month.
Short videos on the renewed ‘asks’ were also presented to the audience; these will then be used on social media to continue to highlight the asks and to encourage continued conversation and interest.
The day was wrapped up by inviting questions and conversation from the audience. Ulster University Lecturer, Dr Ciara Fitzpatrick chaired this conversation and observations by the audience were acknowledged and appreciated. Alliance MLA for South Belfast, Kate Nicholl, expressed her commitment to continuing to advocate for The Coalition’s asks.
This event was a wonderful opportunity to engage with the wider Cliff Edge Coalition and elected representatives, and gain momentum to realise our renewed asks. The Law Centre is determined to continue this important work with The Coalition Working Group, on behalf of the wider Coalition.
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