Durkan warns of fall off welfare cliff edge

Thousands will be poorer if welfare mitigations are not extended beyond March 2020, it’s been warned.

Thursday, 24th October 2019, 12:40 pm

SDLP MLA Mark H. Durkan has called for the immediate restoration of Stormont to protect citizens from a fall over a ‘welfare cliff edge’.

“We have already witnessed the disastrous fallout brought about by Welfare Reform- the increased reliance on food banks, families forced into spiralling debts and homes here paying bedroom tax despite assurances from other parties that no such tax would come to pass,” he said.

Four years ago the DUP, Sinn Féin and Alliance agreed to give legislative consent to the NI (Welfare Reform) Act as part of the ‘Fresh Start Agreement’ to consolidate power-sharing. This led to the introduction of Universal Credit but with £585m in ‘top-ups’ lasting until March 2020.

A few weeks ago the Secretary of State, Julian Smith, warned any extension of mitigations would be a matter for a local Communities Minister.

Now Mr. Durkan has said: “With the end to mitigations now in sight, so too ends the protections of some of the most vulnerable in our society. My own constituency office has dealt with a number of people who have already lost their supplementary payments.

“Others have been forced to pay for extra bedrooms, yet through no fault of their own are unable to downsize due to severe shortages within the social housing stock here. Most now find themselves caught in a ‘Catch-22’ without protections and without appropriate action being taken on their behalf. Evidently, the system of Welfare Reform is fundamentally flawed and continues to unjustly penalise those already struggling to stay afloat. The reality remains that without immediate intervention from an Executive, this situation is set to worsen. The SDLP has criticized the roll-out of Welfare Reform from the outset, we warned about the end of mitigations and pleaded for the restorations of our institutions.”