Knowledge Exchange Seminar Series (KESS)

6 June 2018: Social Welfare Issues relating to Poverty

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1.30pm – RaISe – Welcome and Opening Remarks

Dr Mark Simpson (Ulster) – Protecting dignity, fighting poverty and promoting social inclusion in devolved social security

1.45pm –  The protection of human dignity and poverty reduction are core functions of social security. Changes to working age benefits since 2010 have reduced claimants’ incomes, putting more people at risk of poverty and arguably reducing the ability of the system to support a dignified standard of living. Human rights law has been used to challenge key policies and pressure has grown for a different approach in Scotland and Northern Ireland, resulting in Northern Ireland’s mitigations programme and the devolution of new powers to Scotland. The Scottish Government has given a commitment to develop a devolved system on the basis of a distinctive set of principles, notably respect for the dignity of claimants, and plans to reinstate statutory targets for the reduction of child poverty. The Northern Ireland Executive has a legal duty to publish a strategy for tackling poverty and social exclusion. There are also proposals for enhanced protection of social and economic rights in both regions. These objectives could be undermined by benefit cuts. Limiting the child element of universal credit to two children per household is projected to increase child poverty and merits particularly close attention. Recent judicial reviews show senior judges are increasingly prepared to

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Dr Paul McKenzie (Ulster) – Mapping Fuel Poverty Across Northern Ireland

2.05pm –  Fuel poverty is a significant issue across Europe and a particular problem within the UK and Ireland. Fuel poverty occurs when insufficient funds are available to pay for a warm and comfortable home. Households affected by fuel poverty are at risk of physical and mental health difficulties and are linked with excess winter mortality. While strategies exist to reduce fuel poverty, there is a pressing need to allocate assistance to those most in need. As fuel poverty is influenced by various socio-economic indicators, an area-based targeting approach was developed to identify households most at risk of fuel poverty. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can be used to integrate variables that are key determinants of fuel poverty including temperature, the price of home heating oil, data on benefits (e.g. Disability Living Allowance) and deprivation. GIS enabled variables to be combined and weighted for each Census Output Area (COA) to create a fuel poverty risk score for every household in Northern Ireland. This presentation highlights findings of research undertaken in relation to fuel poverty risk model, which received further funding from OFMDFM and the Department for Social Development (DSD) to liaise with local councils to determine the efficiency of the area-based

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2.25pm – Discussion 
2.55pm – RaISe – Closing Remarks 
3.00pm – Networking and Refreshments