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.
Deirdre Hargey, Communities Minister says since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, there's been a 294% increase in claims to universal credit and a 110% increase to job seekers allowance claims— Q Radio News (@qnewsdesk) May 19, 2020
She adds there have been 71,000 applicants to universal credit with 140,000 payments. pic.twitter.com/WttOITiL3M
"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."
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.
Deirdre Hargey says that recovery of any benefit or social security overpayment can be paused over the next three months, to help people cope with the impact of COVID-19. pic.twitter.com/TceTz8fKI6— Q Radio News (@qnewsdesk) May 19, 2020
Also speaking today at Stormont, Deirdre Hargey announced more support for councils struggling during the COVID-19 crisis.
Deirdre Hargey has announced the Executive will intervene into local government to stop its collapse.— Q Radio News (@qnewsdesk) May 19, 2020
£20.3 Million will be provided to reduce financial pressure on local councils.
She says councils have had a large drop in income.
She adds councils can furlough staff if required pic.twitter.com/RddIpGAjFo
Her announcement follows warnings from senior local government officials that councils were facing a "financial cliff edge" during the COVID-19 crisis.