New NI housing minister raises welfare reform concerns

Deidre Hargey told the prime minister that austerity measures are “punishing the most disadvantaged in society”.

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Newly appointed Communities Minister for Northern Ireland Deirdre Hargey MLA has raised concerns with Prime Minister Boris Johnson over welfare reform.

Following a meeting with executive colleagues and Johnson, Hargey said: “I used the opportunity to inform the British prime minister, Johnson, of my views on Welfare Reform, which I believe is having a negative impact on people here and needs to be reversed.”

Hargey took over as South Belfast MLA after Mairtin O Muilleoir announced he was leaving politics.

Her role as community’s minister will oversee the workings of the Department for Communities, which has responsibility for welfare and housing policy as well as culture and the arts.

She is one of eight ministers serving in the Northern Ireland Executive, led by First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill.

A draft plan for government, New Decade, New Approach, has proposed boosting social housebuilding investment as well as extending welfare mitigation payments insulating the region such as the bedroom tax.

As reported by 24housing, housing commitments in the new draft deal for a restored Executive in Northern Ireland must be “implemented immediately”, with NIFHA chief executive Ben Collins warning there was no room for complacency.

Hargey highlighted the need for recurrent funding for welfare mitigations in order to protect those “already struggling” as a result of welfare reform being penalised further.

“My Department is working at a pace to ensure that, in line with New Decade, New Approach, the immediate matter of extension of welfare mitigations takes place from 31st March,” she said.

Pictured: Deirdre Hargey MLA by Niall Carson, PA.

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