SDLP Social Justice Spokesperson Mark H Durkan has welcomed a U-turn from Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey on a payment for Supporting People staff.
Workers employed through the Supporting People Programme and homeless sector are to receive a recognition payment of up to £500.
Earlier this year Mr Durkan wrote to the Minister calling for recognition of the work done by the sector during the pandemic, but his plea fell on deaf ears.
The Foyle MLA said:
“It is welcome the Minister has changed her position on this important issue and staff will now get the recognition they so richly deserve after an incredibly tough period during the coronavirus pandemic. However, this payment does not change the fact that the Supporting People sector is at breaking point.
“The failure to increase funding over the last decade is unacceptable and has had a detrimental impact on both service providers and service users. These staff support some of the most vulnerable and at risk groups in society and over the pandemic their workload has increased dramatically. In 15 years the programme has not witnessed any increase in funding or improvements in pay and conditions for its workers, that is absolutely shameful.
“The vital and dangerous work staff in this sector do can’t be taken for granted. Many within this sector are there to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable people, but their current working conditions are damaging to morale and wellbeing, particularly when they’re being paid a pittance. The high turnover of staff further underlines a sector in desperate need of reform.
“Despite these challenges the Minister’s move will be a welcome token for many staff who are struggling. I hope to see recognition payments to other key staff, including health workers, progressed as soon as possible.”