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2 July, 2020 Open access

Suspension of benefit conditionality extended to 7 August 2020 in Northern Ireland

Department for Communities confirms continued relaxation of work search and work availability requirements in response to ongoing coronavirus pandemic

Benefit conditionality in Northern Ireland will continue to be suspended until 7 August 2020, the Department for Communities has said.

In March 2020, the then Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey had announced that, as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, all routine appointments at Jobs and Benefits offices would be postponed, that nobody would be penalised as a result of not attending the office, and that compliance and benefit review interviews would cease.

As a result, work search and work availability requirements were removed for new and existing claims for jobseeker’s allowance and universal credit for three months from 30 March 2020.

However, the Department for Communities has now updated its Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Benefits web page to confirm that -

'From 30 March 2020 until 7 August 2020, work search and work availability requirements will be removed for new and existing claims to Jobseeker’s Allowance .... [and] Universal Credit.'

NB - Conditionality and benefit sanctions are however being reintroduced this week in Great Britain, with Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey having said that, as jobcentres reopen, reinstatement of the claimant commitment will form an 'essential part of the contract to help people start to reconsider what vacancies there are'.