More information needed on welfare reform
Published: 31 Dec 2012 18:00
The UK Government has decided that the current welfare system has two key problems: work incentives are poor, and the system is too complex.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith decided to reform the benefit system to make it "fairer, more affordable and better able to tackle poverty, worklessness and welfare dependency."
The Welfare Reform Act was passed in Westminster on 8 March and the Executive passed the Northern Ireland Welfare Reform Bill 60 votes to 42 at its second stage on 9 October. The Bill will be debated at committee stage until 22 January 2013 but cannot break parity with Westminster.
The two major areas of concern are changes to Housing Benefits and DLA.
"There is huge concern about what is coming down the line amongst the constituents that I talk to," UUP MLA Tom Elliott tells the Impartial Reporter.
Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan adds: "There are concerns in our communities as many people, especially the most vulnerable in our society or those on low wages, rely on some form of benefit to survive."
More support is needed for advice workers, both men agree.
Locals are not fully aware of the changes on the way, according to Manager of Fermanagh Citizens' Advice Bureau (CAB) Siobhan Peoples.
"Fermanagh CAB fear that the impact of this Bill will be the reduction in benefit entitlement and payments for many of the most vulnerable people in society," she states.
The key welfare reforms are:
From October 2013, Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) will replace DLA for working age claimants (i.e. 16-64 year olds). Medical examinations will be carried out and claims will be reassessed every three years. Customers aged 65 and over on DLA will not be moved to PIPs.
From April 2014, a monthly or twice-monthly payment of Universal Credit will replace means-tested JSA, means-tested ESA, Income Support, child and working Tax Credits and Housing Benefit.
From 1 April 2013, Housing Benefit in England, Scotland and Wales will be cut for social housing tenants who have spare bedrooms (i.e. bedroom tax). Pensioners will not be affected. A date for implementation in Northern Ireland has not yet been announced. However, long waiting lists and the lack of one-bedroom social housing is a problem in the region.
Siobhan Peoples welcomes the UK Government's aim to use Universal Credit as an incentive to get long-term unemployed back to work. However, there aren't enough jobs out there, she believes.
The move from DLA to Personal Independence Payments is driven by "a budgetary approach rather than the interests of disabled people in our community or to promote independent living," she states.
"Claimants of DLA have been unfairly branded as 'work-shy' whilst in reality, DLA is paid to those in or out of work to support the costs of living with a disability, which are on the rise."
Housing Benefit claimant's are likely to be penalised, despite there not being enough single-occupancy social housing in the county, Siobhan continues.
Tom Elliott has accused the Department for Social Development of failing to effectively communicate the changes. "Now on a weekly basis, more and more people are contacting my office with a genuine sense of fear and trepidation," he states.
Urgent investment is needed in front-line staff and advice workers to handle "a landslide of enquires once this reform is implemented," he believes.
Phil Flanagan predicts that the impact of the 'bedroom tax' and PIPs will be "more acutely felt" in a rural society like Fermanagh.
"In rural areas there is not the adequate housing stock of single bedroom apartments to accommodate single people and they may very well suffer as a result," he states.
"Similarly, changes to DLA can be felt more so in rural areas in terms of mobility and increased isolation."
For more details, see Thursday's Impartial Reporter
Get more stories from our Roundup section
11 Mar 2014 13:00
A 49-year-old man was drunk and in “bad humour” when he attacked his former partner’s house and daubed insults on her car.
11 Mar 2014 11:30
Police are investigating a spate of thefts from cars in the Ballinamallard area at the weekend.
11 Mar 2014 10:00
THE PSNI were 'justified' in using a Taser to help restrain a man who was threatening to slash his own throat in Belleek last year, the Police Ombudsman has said.
10 Mar 2014 21:39
Ballinamallard made their exit from the Setanta Cup with a 5-0 defeat at the hands of reigning Airtricity League champions St. Pat's Athletic tonight.
10 Mar 2014 19:00
A crook’s car has become a police car.
10 Mar 2014 17:00
The Department of Regional Development is to spend £2.26 million on carrying out structural maintenance on roads in Fermanagh.
10 Mar 2014 15:02
The Green Party has announced that Laurence Speight, from Derrygonnelly, is to stand for election to the new Fermanagh and Omagh District Council in May's election.
10 Mar 2014 13:00
CEREBRAL Palsy sufferer, Sarah Griffith, from Aghadrumsee will take on the challenge of a lifetime in two hours time when she begins her two mile walk around the Lakeland Forum Race Track.
10 Mar 2014 11:30
THE Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development has said “all that can be done is being done” in reducing the risk of further flooding in Fermanagh.
10 Mar 2014 10:00 • Julie Kenwell
THE final countdown is on for South West Acute Hospital’s (SWAH) transition to an entirely smoke-free site on March 12.
9 Mar 2014 22:00 • Rodney Edwards
THERE is a “very strong possibility” that human trafficking is taking place in Fermanagh.
9 Mar 2014 19:30 • Lily Dane
A geophysical survey will be completed over coming weeks on the Queen Anne site at Castle Coole, Enniskillen, where a newly opened Lake Walk extension, lined with captivating snowdrops, is proving a welcome development.
9 Mar 2014 16:02
Fermanagh's goal now will be to avoid relegation after defeat to Roscommon today at Brewster Park ended any hopes of promotion.
9 Mar 2014 13:00 • Editorial Department
SINN Fein Councillor Stephen Huggett said he hoped a fellow councillor would place a ‘bomb’ underneath the Housing Executive during a meeting of Fermanagh District Council.
9 Mar 2014 11:30 • Lily Dane
Sheelin Lace London, which recently opened in the capital city, is an expansion of the specialised Fermanagh business, Sheelin Lace.
9 Mar 2014 09:00 • Editorial Department
A 26-year-old disqualified driver who narrowly missed hitting a pedestrian while fleeing from police has been warned he could be jailed for 10 months.
8 Mar 2014 19:00 • Editorial Department
Roscommon come calling to Enniskillen this Sunday and put their 100 percent record on the line against a Fermanagh side who will still be reeling from last weekend’s defeat to Longford in which they threw away a nine point lead at Pearse Park.
8 Mar 2014 17:30
Cliftonville proved too strong for Ballinamallard at Solitude today as they ran out 5-0 winners to maintain their push to retain the Gibson Cup.
8 Mar 2014 15:00 • Meadhbh Monahan
The news that the Education Minister John O’Dowd has accepted Enniskillen Integrated Primary School’s Development Proposal, allowing an increase in year one pupils from 30-56, was being celebrated in style last Friday.
8 Mar 2014 13:00 • Meadhbh Monahan
There were emotional scenes in a Derrylin hair salon last Friday as 10-year-old Katie Corrigan had 10 inches of her beautiful blonde hair cut off.