‘Deep concern’ with 47% of Derry families reliant on welfare entitlements for income

Foyle MP Colum Eastwood has expressed 'deep concern' over what he has branded government inaction for people in receipt of welfare entitlements as new research shows close to half of all families in Derry are receiving means-tested benefits.
A Derry Against Fuel Poverty march and rally making its way along Duke Street earlier this month. Photo: George Sweeney.A Derry Against Fuel Poverty march and rally making its way along Duke Street earlier this month. Photo: George Sweeney.
A Derry Against Fuel Poverty march and rally making its way along Duke Street earlier this month. Photo: George Sweeney.

New analysis carried out by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows a greater proportion of people in Derry are reliant on welfare entitlements for their income than the vast majority of constituencies across the north and in Britain.

JRF says it used the latest official data ‘to produce a comprehensive analysis of which parliamentary constituencies will be most affected if the Government chooses not uprate means tested benefits such as Universal Credit in line with inflation’.

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It shows that in Foyle there are 8,847 households receiving Universal Credit; 11,893 households receiving legacy benefits; 20,740 households receiving means-tested benefits; and 13,855 households receiving child benefits.

In total 47 per cent of families in Derry are receiving some form of means-tested benefits and 92 per cent of children were receiving child benefits.

Mr. Eastwood said: "Figures from the JRF latest research show just how many families in Derry face a cut in social securities if the Tories do not uprate benefits at least in line with inflation.

"In Derry alone, 47 per cent of families receive means-tested benefits, 11,893 households receive legacy benefits. My office is inundated with concerned constituents unable to buy essentials, skipping meals, unable to put the heating on and even taking out loans just to make ends meet.”

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JRF says plans to increase benefits in line with earnings – six per cent currently - would subject citizens to ‘the biggest real-terms permanent cut ever made in a single year’.

Katie Schmuecker, JRF Principal Policy Adviser, said: “Politicians should think long and hard about the impact of withholding hundreds of pounds from thousands of families in their constituencies when the basic rate of benefits is already at its lowest in real terms for 40 years and prices are sky-high."

Mr. Eastwood pointed out that the British government uprated benefits by 3.1 per cent in April while inflation was already at 9 per cent.

He said: “They cannot just sit on their hands while people struggle. With the current basic rate of out-of-work support at its lowest level in real terms in 40 years, low-income households are feeling the strain.

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"The Tory government must do the right thing and immediately uprate benefits so that rates catch up with inflation and help people out of further impending hardship."

Ms. Schmuecker said: “We know millions of families have already gone without the essentials this year, missing meals, not cooking hot food or having hot showers. We know people have gone into arrears on their bills or taking on debt to pay for the basics.

"It is unconscionable that the government should be considering cutting their ability to pay for what they need.

“The Government must realise how catastrophic it would be to refuse to respect their own party’s pledge to make sure the value of benefits keeps up with prices.

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“The majority of people agree the right thing to do is help the most vulnerable during this extraordinary crisis. The impact will be felt across every constituency in the UK. Now is the time for all MPs to stand up and be counted."