Rebecca Black (PA)
Direct payments of up to £650 will be made to those in greatest need amid the rising cost of living after a funding mechanism for Northern Ireland was agreed.
The UK Government announced the extra payments earlier this year but discussion was required to find a way of delivering these to Northern Ireland in the absence of a fully functioning Executive.
Ministers remain in post in a caretaker role while the DUP refuses to nominate a new Executive until the UK takes action over their concerns around the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey confirmed on Wednesday that a solution to deliver the cost-of-living payments had been found.
Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill urged the DUP to re-enter government in Stormont, adding her party has a plan to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.
She said the plan includes a payment for every household.
Ms O’Neill also said Finance Minister Conor Murphy is pressing London to remove tax on home heating oil and reduce tax on diesel and petrol to mitigate recent price rises.
Ms Hargey said her department worked with the Department of Work and Pensions over the last few weeks to find a way to deliver the cost-of-living payments in Northern Ireland.
“We have found a way to do that and that is through direct legislation being laid at Westminster today,” she told media in Belfast.
“We have had to try and find this workaround because we don’t have a functioning Executive, and the quickest way that we can deal with the pressures that families and workers are feeling is by forming the Executive as soon as possible by all of the parties working together.”
The payments will be made to those on income-related and disability benefits, as well as pensioners.
However, Ms Hargey said the funding does not go far enough.
“Many people are struggling, including workers and families who are not eligible for benefits,” she said.
“The absence of a functioning Executive and no budget in place makes the challenge of dealing with these issues all the greater.
“Money needs to be put directly into the pockets of people who desperately need it.
“I am committed to doing all I can to mitigate the real and damaging impacts people are enduring.”
The first payment of £326 will be made in July 2022 and the second payment of £324 will be made in autumn 2022.