The Department for Communities has responded to Derry Trades Union Council’s claims welfare reform is inflicting real hardship on people in Derry.
A spokesperson said: “As a safeguard for people needing more support, the DfC has a well-established system of hardship payments, benefit advances and budgeting loans. People use food banks for many and varied reasons and it would be misleading to link them to any single cause.
“Welfare Reform in NI is supported by a £501m mitigation package which included measures to support the introduction of Universal Credit (UC). In NI, as agreed by the NI Executive, UC claimants receive twice monthly payments to help with budgeting and their housing costs are paid directly to the landlord to prevent potential issues with rent arrears. UC is assessed monthly and paid in arrears and in NI, all claimants are offered an Advance Payment if they need financial support during the wait for their first payment. Approximately 44% of claimants to date have requested an advance payment, all of whom have received their payment on the same day.”
In response to its criticisms of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) regime the spokesperson said: “DfC expects the highest standards from Capita who deliver the PIP Assessment Service and they have to conform to a rigorous set of quality standards set down by DfC. We continue to work closely with Capita to ensure PIP assessments are continuously improved.”