Unions escalate fight against welfare reform

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Trade unions have escalated their fight against welfare reform, blaming the Universal Credit (UC) and Personal Independence Payments (PIP) regimes, for forcing hardship on vulnerable people.

In a statement to the ‘Journal’ the Derry Trades Union Council Chair Liam Gallagher blasted: “There is deep concern about the fact that the UC system is now live in Belfast, Derry and Newry and its application is not working well.

“More and more people are experiencing real hardship and many have had to access foodbanks recently to survive, including single mothers.

“Jobseekers represent only two per cent of the total uptake. Most recipients find severe difficulty with accessing the allocation for rent, tax credit when they are on low wages, single parent allowances and sickness benefit.

“It is estimated that one third of the unemployed are on UC. It is a fact that bedroom tax is now in and the initial protection agreed and brokered as part of the last Stormont Agreement cannot be extended because there is no Assembly in place. People accessing benefits face extreme difficulty in getting someone to speak to.”

Mr. Gallagher attacked the operation of the PIP system, which replaced Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in 2016, and is operated by Capita, a firm that carries out PIP reviews for the Department for Communities (DfC).

“Unions believe that the intention is to eventually privatise the delivery of the service and the stated aim is to cut DLA by 20 per cent,” said Mr. Gallagher.

He added: “Capita’s record of assessment in Derry has been shocking and many genuinely ill people have been wrongly assessed. This is evidenced by the numbers who won on appeal.”

He went on to claim: “We believe that Capita are funded on the basis of meeting. targets to reduce the number of claimants. We are calling immediately for Capita to be kicked out.”