Universal Credit Should Be Halted Says Hazzard

Sinn Féin’s South Down MP Chris Hazzard has called for the roll-out of Universal Credit to be halted due to the failure of the Department of Communities to provide clarity on the protections for the most vulnerable.
The South Down MP said: “Sinn Féin has always rigorously opposed the welfare cuts agenda, and indeed it is not so long ago that we were being accused of bringing the Assembly to the point of collapse on this very issue.
Sinn Féin South Down MP Chris Hazzard.

“Despite the opposition of all the other parties, we were able to secure a £585 million package to mitigate the impact of welfare reform here and to prevent the kind of problems we have seen taking place in Britain.

“This package included halving the maximum sanction that can be imposed, agreed additional protections for lone parents and local political and administrative oversight to protect the most vulnerable.
“However, despite repeated requests, there is still no clarity about how these mitigation measures will be incorporated into the local roll-out. That isn’t good enough and the introduction of Universal Credit should be halted as a result.”
Mr Hazzard added: “The department has the ability to support rather than punish people and they now need to exercise those powers.
“Sinn Féin will continue to engage with the Department on that basis and it is important that all parties do so because the Tory Government will undoubtedly seek to continue their assault on the welfare system and the most vulnerable in our society.”
Department of Communities Rolls Out Universal Credit
In a recent statement from the Department of Communities, it was indicated that Universal Credit will be introduced on a phased basis in Northern Ireland from Wednesday 27 September 2017.

Universal Credit replaces six existing benefits with one. It is for people aged 18 to State Pension age and aims to remove many of the barriers to work which exist in the current welfare system.

It will be introduced gradually across Northern Ireland in the period from September 2017 to September 2018. New claimants from the Limavady area will be the first to claim Universal Credit. People already claiming the existing benefits will not be affected until 2019, unless their entitlement changes.

The new benefit payment will support claimants in being able to start and progress in work and earn more without losing their benefits, while ensuring those who cannot work continue to receive the financial support they need. It includes support for the cost of housing, children and childcare, as well as particular help for parents, who will be able to claim back up to 85% of their registered childcare costs each month.

Denis McMahon, Deputy Secretary of Work and Inclusion Group, DfC, explained: “The introduction of Universal Credit is another stage of the Department’s work to implement the NI Executive’s decisions on welfare changes. It is a significant change to the way the benefit system works in Northern Ireland, and our phased approach aims to give the best possible support to claimants as they get used to the new system.”

Explaining how the new system will work, Dr McMahon said: “Instead of individuals having to fill in multiple forms and managing several claims, they will claim the single benefit of Universal Credit online. This will simplify the claims process, with digital support available for those who need it. They will be able to claim using a PC, tablet or mobile phone. As it rolls out in areas, local offices will have a Digital Zone with PCs and free Wifi which claimants can use to access their online account, with staff available to provide help and support.”

Universal Credit replaces Jobseeker’s Allowance (income-based), Employment Support Allowance (income-related), Income Support, Housing Benefit (rental), Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credits for people aged over 18 and under State Pension age.

Existing claimants will transfer to Universal Credit between July 2019 and March 2022. Some claimants will naturally move to Universal Credit earlier, where their circumstances have changed.

As Universal Credit is rolled out claimants can discuss their personal circumstances by calling into their local Job & Benefits Office. Further information on Universal Credit and full details of the roll out are available on:

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