LISTEN: Rise in universal credit claims, says Communities Minister

by PA News team.

There has been a 294% increase in claims for universal credit, and a 110% increase in claims for job seekers allowance in Northern Ireland since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, communities minister Deirdre Hargey has said.

"That equates to around 71,000 applicants for universal credit with an average of 7,900 claims per week," she told a sitting of the Stormont Assembly.

"Staff have been working extremely hard and we have 140,294 payments on time (according to data between March 16 to May 14), representing around 99.3% of all payments due by then."

Deirdre Hargey

Ms Hargey said her department has suspended the "recovery of benefit over payments" as well as "loan repayments from a number of social security payments" for three months.

She said this was aimed at providing "financial easement to people with benefit over payment related debt" or an outstanding loan balance.

Also speaking today at Stormont, Deirdre Hargey announced more support for councils struggling during the COVID-19 crisis.

Deirdre Hargey

Her announcement follows warnings from senior local government officials that councils were facing a "financial cliff edge" during the COVID-19 crisis.

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