Department of Social Development tell Derry woman she’s ‘a person from abroad’

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A Derry woman says she was shocked after receiving a letter from the Department of Social Development this week telling her she is now considered to be “a person from abroad.

The 24-year-old, who was born in Derry and has lived and worker here her entire life, went on a working visa to New Zealand seven months ago. When her visa expired, she returned to Derry as she had intended to on March 7.

On applying for jobseekers’ allowance however she received a letter telling her she would have to prove her residency in Derry and and told that “you are therefore regarded as a Person from Abroad with an applicable amount of Nil.”

The woman, who did not wish to be named, told the Journal. “I was so shocked, basically, I have three months to ‘prove’ my residency. It’s ridiculous. I’ve lived here all of my life and I have always worked and paid my taxes and national insurance. I’ve never needed to apply for jobseekers before and I honestly can’t believe that I’m now regarded as a person from abroad. I never expected to encounter something like this.

Luckily, I have my family here and I can rely on their support financially, but I feel that young people in particular who may be away from home should be aware of this. If you came back home and didn’t have anywhere you could go or anyone you could rely on for help, it would be an awful situation.”

Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan has slammed measures taken by DSD Minister Nelson McCausland to change Jobseeker Allowance eligibility for people returning to the North.

The SDLP Minister said: “Our young people are leaving with all their skills to find work and when they return home, for whatever reason, not only are there no jobs to return to - but they are being further attacked with a denial of the rights and support given to those who have remained resident. This is not scaremongering, this is reality and more and more will fall into poverty if we do not act now.

“I have warned about it for two years now and it’s time that other parties stood up and delivered better for the people of this region,” he said.