UK benefits system causing 'poverty and financial pain': Derry & Strabane call for reform

Derry and Strabane Council will ask the British Government to amend the benefits system, which it says is causing ‘poverty and financial pain’.
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The proposal was put forward by Sinn Féin Councillor Grace Uí Niallais at the October Council meeting.

Colr. Uí Niallais urged the endorsement of the Guarantee Our Essentials campaign, which seeks to ensure everyone can afford the essentials in hard times, and to recognise that the current Social Security system, particularly Universal Credit, is not fit for purpose.

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The proposal stated that people on Universal Credit are ‘incredibly vulnerable to changing circumstances, often beyond their control, such as loss of employment and illness.’

Derry Sinn Féin Colr. Grace Uí Niallais.Derry Sinn Féin Colr. Grace Uí Niallais.
Derry Sinn Féin Colr. Grace Uí Niallais.

Colr. Uí Niallais described the current Social Security system as ‘the painful result of a succession of punishing cuts and changes, piled upon us by an austerity government’.

"As winter moves in, the reality for many households is ‘heat or eat’. The cost of living is sky-rocketing, while the average wage is unacceptably low.

"This, combined with rising rents and mortgage payments, lack of a childcare strategy, and a failing Social Security system, is creating the perfect storm where people are spiralling into severe poverty and depression.

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"You only have to look at the queues outside foodbanks to know that the system is broken.

The Guildhall.The Guildhall.
The Guildhall.

"In the absence of a sitting Government, the transition to Universal Credit has been forced upon us without any real consultation.

"The most vulnerable in our society are being failed and we must continue to fight for the dignity and basic needs that are being stripped through austerity.”

Ballyarnett SDLP District Councillor Rory Farrell said that the current level of social support ‘condemns people to a life in poverty, misery and destitution’.

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Colr. Farrell said the SDLP would like to see the delivery and implementation of a ‘long awaited anti-poverty strategy in the North’.

"People have been waiting for it since 1998,” Colr. Farrell said. “And the latest delay is due to one party’s refusal to form a Government.”

"That provides no comfort whatsoever to people in this council area who are living in poverty.”

Waterside DUP Alderman Niree McMorris said there were major issues with Universal Credit, but there were other contributing factors.

"When you put things like the cost of living issue into the mix, it’s not a good place for anybody.

"Our colleagues within the DUP have been championing changes within the Universal Credit system and, even if we were in Government tomorrow, would that really make a big difference to this?”

Andrew Balfour,

Local Democracy Reporter.