The planned implementation of welfare reform brought the Northern Ireland Assembly to the brink of collapse in 2015 due to political concerns about the impact of the major changes on vulnerable people. Following negotiations between the parties and with the government, the ‘fresh start agreement’ was passed. This led to the introduction of a £585 million welfare reform mitigations package designed to lessen the impact of some of the harshest aspects of the new system. The package is due to expire in 2020 and concerns are mounting about a subsequent ‘cliff edge’. Ciara Fitzpatrick, Kate McCauley and Kevin Higgins look at the implications and what should be done.