Social Security officials have said they will not take part in a special meeting of Derry City & Strabane District Council to discuss Welfare Reform.
The move comes after councillors agreed earlier this month to convene a special meeting to discuss the cuts to benefits and under plans contained within the reforms.
The Council has issued an invitation for Professor in Social Administration Eileen Evason to attend the meeting, scheduled to take place on May 24. A group led by Prof. Evason earlier this year issued proposals to lessening the impact of UK-wide welfare reforms for people in the North by providing supplementary payments for people who are sick and others facing greater financial hardship under the transfer to Universal Credit.
However, it emerged during yesterday’s Full Council meeting that DSD officials have said they will not be taking part in any such meeting. Correspondence received by the council from Brian Doherty, Director Working Age Services and Universal Credit at the NI Social Security Agency, said the Department has already arranged a series of events starting in May as part of a welfare changes campaign.
“It has been determined that attending individual Council meetings will not form part of the current communications plan,” he said, adding: “The activities in the campaign include information sessions in May for MLAs in the Long Gallery, Stormont, constituency offices across Northern Ireland in select locations (which councillors are welcome to attend), an event with NILGA and we have written to Chief Executives of Councils this week to begin to engage.”
Mr Doherty said that with regard to the Evason Group report, DSD officials were liaising with Prof. Evason, with work “on-going to finalise the implementation of her recommendations”.