Decisions that have been taken by our politicians on the Welfare Reform Bill are set to impact on the lives of almost a thousand Dungannon families.
The Bill, which the Northern Ireland Assembly must consider as part of the Stormont House Agreement, contains a number of proposals to reduce government outlay on benefits.
Two such measures are the [spare] ‘bedroom tax’ for those in receipt of housing benefit and also a ‘benefit cap’, to limit the amount a household can receive a year in welfare payments.
According to the Department of Social Development [DSD] - which oversees the benefit system - 704 Dungannon households currently in receipt of housing benefit could be “affected by under occupation”.
Meaning that if they have spare bedrooms in their homes, they could have the benefit cut.
And a further 224 families in the area that are taking home over £26,000 in benefits, will be affected by the benefit cap - which means they will not be entitled to any more than that amount.
But there is some good news for those facing the impending bedroom tax - a tax some politicians said is “about punishing people who rely on support from the state”.
Aware of the serious lack of one-bed homes “the Executive will create a separate Discretionary Housing Scheme to protect tenants from any reduction in their housing benefit until a significant change in their personal circumstances, or they are offered suitable alternative accommodation,” according to DSD.
This protection “will be initially set for five years with a review to be carried out at that point”, allowing DSD to build 200 new one-bed units a year going forward, in answer to the shortage.