Mullan: Benefits overhaul hiking stress and food bank dependency

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The roll-out of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) sickness benefit is hiking anxiety among recipents while the phasing in of Universal Credit next month will only heighten food bank dependency.

That’s according to Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan, who, after meeting with advice service providers in the city to discuss the impact UC is likely to have on local communities when it goes live in January, said: “Amongst the concerns raised, was the five week delay for the first payment of Universal Credit, this will do little to prevent more people being driven into hardship.

“The serious flaws at the heart of UC still exist. It’s implementation and the five week wait should be stopped immediately. Another key concern raised was the process of demeaning claimants and ‘stressful’ assessments, which is appearing at the heart of the PIP system. It’s increasing anxiety and making conditions significantly worse.”

She said more and more people are likely to become dependent on food banks.

“The growth in food bank dependency witnessed in the last couple of years is a direct consequence of the Tory assault on living standards and their attack on public services and the welfare state witch is set to get worse with further cuts to come. Advice services provide vital support to people in receiving their full benefit entitlement and assisting the application process, cuts to advice service funding only adds to the extreme pressure already placed on advice workers.”