Protest staged over benefit cuts process and rights of claimants

Protesters outside the Jobs & Benefits Office in Derry on Thursday.
Protesters outside the Jobs & Benefits Office in Derry on Thursday.

A protest has been staged in Derry calling for a “human rights checklist” to be implemented before decisions are made regarding cuts to people’s benefits.

The Right to Work; Right to Welfare (R2W) staged the protest outside the Jobs & Benefits office on Asylum Road on Thursday and were joined by trade unionists and political representatives from Sinn Féin, SDLP and People Before Profit.

The campaigners queued outside the social security agency before entering the building and handing over numerous formal complaints about an alleged failure to uphold basic due process and impact assessments in the social security decision making process.

The move followed similar actions at offices in east and west Belfast.

Campaigners, including the councils in Belfast and Derry & Strabane - have called on the Department for Communities to implement the ‘People’s Proposal’ – a human rights checklist to guarantee due process and mandatory impact assessments before decisions are made to stop or reduce the income of claimants.

The R2W group met with key Department for Communities officials in June but the group claimed no progress has been made by the department since the meeting, despite assurances given.

R2W are supported by human rights group, Participation and the Practice of Rights (PPR). Seán Brady from PPR said: “The absence of a minister can’t be used as an excuse to justify ongoing human rights abuse.”

Niall McCarroll of Derry Trades Union Council (DTUC) added: “We view standing up for our people’s human rights as fundamental to our very existence and a core value.”

Responding to the issues raised, a departmental spokesperson said: “The department’s decision making activities take place within a carefully monitored and controlled statutory framework to ensure that fair, lawful, accurate and consistent decisions are made.

“The staff making those decisions receive clear and comprehensive training and guidance to support them in their work. The customer has the right to seek a mandatory reconsideration and appeal the application of the sanction and if the customer is still unhappy with the decision they can appeal to an independent tribunal. Moreover, there is independent scrutiny of the accuracy and quality of Social Security decisions, including the correct interpretation and application of statute and case law by the Standards Committee.”