Mallon: Audit Office report highlights a number of SDLP concerns
The SDLP’s Social Justice Spokesperson said:
"This report very helpfully sets out the myriad of benefit changes people are being subjected to. It also highlights a number of concerns the SDLP has been raising for some time.
“It shows that despite the pledges and glossy sell that welfare reform is all about ‘making work pay’, the big drive is not on helping people into work because there is still no accompanying jobs strategy, it is all about cutting the welfare bill and taking £3b out of the pockets of low income and working families here by 2025-26. It’s all about balancing the books on those who least deserve it and can least afford it.
“The report also confirms a significant underspend of the mitigation money set aside to protect people. In large part this is due to the fact that the Cost of Work Allowance, a fund to assist working families, cannot be used to help them because there is no Executive or Minister in place as a result of the ongoing stand-off between the DUP and Sinn Féin.
“We have also consistently expressed concerns about the PIP assessment process being carried out by Capita. We particularly welcome the commitment given by the Audit Office to scrutinise and report on the mega contract worth millions of pounds awarded to Capita.
“The stark warning in this report is that people will experience huge hardship when the current mitigation measures come to an end in March 2020. This is a warning we and the advice sector have been flagging up for some time. We see on a daily basis the horror stories in England. That is where we are headed if protections are not put in place to prevent low income and working families from falling off the cliff edge in 2020. Building political consensus on the need for, and detail of, new protections must be an urgent priority. It cannot be a consideration left to wait until a talks process is called and an Executive is eventually formed. We are keen to work with all political parties to try to build a consensus and identify the detail of new protection arrangements. To not do this, and not do it now, is to fail these families."