The first meeting of Derry and Strabane Council’s newly established welfare reform taskforce will take place this week.
The task force, which will meet on Thursday, has been formed to take forward proposals from the Council-hosted conference that followed from a successful People Before Profit motion calling for welfare reforms to be scrapped, and for the Council to do everything in its power to ‘undo the damage’ caused by welfare reform locally.
The Guildhall conference was attended by more than 150 advice workers, trade unionists, anti-austerity campaigners, food bank representatives, women’s groups and youth groups.
People Before Profit Colr. and Westminster candidate Shaun Harkin said: “There are urgent issues the welfare reform task force must address. Our Council is committed to getting people hit with benefit cuts all the help available to them now including the best possible and easily accessible welfare advice. Serious problems have been created because of the difficulties people face accessing available discretionary funding - and who are instead forced into debt through loans.
“The introduction of welfare reforms has led directly to an increase in food bank use and poverty in the Derry and Strabane area. This is not acceptable. I will work with others on the task force and with campaigners to do everything that can be done locally to help people - but the over-arching goal must be to see Universal Credit, the Bedroom Tax, hostile PIP assessments and the two-child policy overturned and replaced.”