The British Government has an obligation to act now to pause the rollout of Universal Credit, SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan has said.
Mr Durkan was speaking following the recent House of Commons approval for a Labour Party call for action on the controversial benefits shake-up.
The Foyle MLA also called for Sinn Féin and the DUP to use their mandates to restore devolution and “resist the worst excesses of Tory welfare policy”.
Universal Credit has already been rolled out in Limavady and due to arrive in Derry in February 2018. The changes affect mean those in receipt of benefits and of working age, will have six current benefits being rolled into a single payment.
However there has been widespread concern over delays in people getting their first payment, and the government last week scrapped controversial phone helpline charges following widespread criticism of the costs.
Mr Durkan claimed: “Universal Credit has caused chaos, confusion and hardship in every community where it has been rolled out. All the advice was that a major overhaul of social security of this nature would be virtually impossible and would run massively over budget. It has.”
Mr Durkan said the process to date has left “those who should be entitled to support being cut off for weeks on end”.
“That is not acceptable,” he said, while criticising both the DUP and Sinn Féin for not voting in favour of a pause in the rollout of Universal Credit at the House of Commons, where Sinn Fein do not take their seats and the DUP abstained.
“This was a moment to take a stand for families struggling in our communities,” he said, adding: “We need functioning institutions here so that local Ministers can take decisions which will protect people from the worst aspects of Tory welfare proposals.
“Sinn Féin and the DUP have the mandate to do a deal. They need to resolve this immediately.”