Benefit consultation or PR exercise? - Cavlan

Ballymoney Sinn Féin councillor Anita Cavlan says she has serious concerns about a survey being currently carried out by the Social Development Department.

According to the local representative, 1,000 households are being asked their views on the introduction of Universal Credit, which she says is the cornerstone of the British government’s Welfare Reform agenda.

“I believe this consultation document paints too rosy a picture, describing a seamless transfer to Universal Credit while failing to highlight the difficulties the huge welfare changes and cuts will present to many people,” she said.

“The British government has claimed that no one will lose out as a result of the transfer of a raft of benefits into a single credit but, even where entitlement stays the same, there are changes that will present difficulties.

“Payment to a single member of the household, the so called ‘transfer from purse to wallet’, will increase the dependency of many women within the family and may be detrimental to their children.

“A monthly payment might be fine for those fortunate enough to command a decent salary but for those on benefit it will increase the hardship of families trying to stretch a meagre income across four weeks instead of two. There are also concerns about the heavy reliance on IT systems to administer Universal Credit, systems where the primary contact with customers will be via the internet, which increases the chances of something to go wrong, and presumes people can afford internet access.

“But this is the tip of the iceberg. If the British government’s Welfare ‘Reform’ was about delivering a fairer, simpler and more transparent system we would all welcome it. Unfortunately this Tory-led government is intent upon targeting some of the poorest and most vulnerable by making welfare reform part of their austerity drive.

“This consultation process is no more than a PR exercise to solicit consent to the imposition of Tory cuts.”