A new welfare rights advice service has just been launched by Derry republican ex-prisoner support group, Tar Abhaile.
The service will be delivered in conjunction with Dove House and Hillcrest House and will offer advice to ex-prisoners and their families on a range of issues, including changes to the welfare system, uptake of benefits and completion of forms.
Tar Abhaile project co-ordinator, Méabh Mackel, said the new service is designed to help ex-prisoners and their families navigate the benefit system.
“Recent studies, such as the Changing Ageing Partnership, indicate that ex-prisoners can be caught in a low income or unemployment trap,” she said.
“It is therefore important that they understand changes to benefits, and what they are entitled to, to ensure these problems are not exacerbated,” she added. “Major changes are coming in the benefit system and it is important that people understand the impact they will have. We are pleased to be working in conjunction with organisations that have a long history of providing benefit advice,” Ms Mackel said.
The service will be available at Tar Abahile, Dove House, Hillcrest House, and Dove House’s new office in Creggan on different days.
Brendan McGonagle, the advice worker who will be delivering the new service, said he is looking forward to the challenge. “It is an area that really interests me and I am aware of the issues facing ex-prisoners around benefits. Traditionally this group has been hesitant to seek benefit advice so it is important that this service is in place now with the changes to the benefit system coming,” he said.
Maureen Collins from Dove House said the new service would reach more people across the city. “People are more confident seeking advice in their own areas. Tar Abhaile are to be commended for launching this new service to provide advice to ex-prisoners and their families,” she said.