Arrangements put in place to off-set the impact of benefit cuts in the north have been welcomed.
Sinn Féin Colr. Kevin Campbell said his party and others had been working hard to safeguard people here from the austerity being imposed by the Tory government.
Existing Social Fund offices, including that in Derry are to shut down due to the abolition of Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants.
A letter seen by the Journal outlines new discretionary support for people in the wake of these measures, which form part of the Welfare Reform Act.
The letter from the Department of Communities details a new Discretionary Support.
The letter states: “This service is unique to Northern Ireland and is aimed at assisting those on low incomes (working and non-working) at times of exceptional or crisis situations.
“You will be aware that the legislative framework for the introduction of Discretionary Support was approved by the NI Assembly on 27 June 2016 and plans are now well advanced for introduction. The new Discretionary Support will be delivered primarily through a telephony-based service. A face-to-face service will be available in local offices. Consideration has also been given to the ongoing delivery of Budgeting Loans, Maternity Grants, Funeral Payments, Winter Fuel and Cold Weather Payments. The Department has decided to consolidate the delivery of these services from the above offices into a central processing centre in Lisburn.”
Colr. Campbell said: “There is no doubt that people are facing many challenges because of the austerity agenda being pursued by the British Tory government.
“Sinn Féin worked hard, along with others, to secure unique arrangements for the North to support those most in need and public services.”