A public meeting organised by the Workers Party has heard of the anguish and suffering being inflicted by the Universal Credit system as it nears the end of its role out across Northern Ireland.
A screening of the film I Daniel Blake was followed by a presentation from Kevin Higgins, Policy Officer with Advice NI and a question and answer session on the details of the new system.
Universal Credit replaces six existing benefits payments for new claimants including housing, childcare, support for people with disabilities, carers and people too ill to work.
Fundamentally flawed The meeting heard that the Universal Credit system is a fundamentally flawed and unfair system and that its introduction has resulted in rent arrears, debt, ill-health, homelessness and an increased reliance on food banks.
Lone parents and people low paid employment are amongst the most affect groups
It also takes at least five weeks from the claim to the first payment many families in North Belfast, Newtownabbey and Ballymena – the most recent areas where it has been introduced are unlikely to receive a payment before Christmas.
Added to those concerns is the fact that to register for Universal Credit, claimants will need an email address, a bank account, access to a computer and be computer literate. That places many people at a disadvantage right away. These restriction are not only unnecessary, they are also unjustifiable
Held to account Of course, if we had a functioning Assembly we might be able to halt the roll out of Universal Credit, or at least make significant amendments to it. But we don’t. Sinn Fein and the DUP in particular need to be held to account for ducking their responsibility for welfare reform and handing it over to the Tory government.
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