SDLP Social Justice Spokesperson, Mark H Durkan MLA has said it is appalling that the advice sector is facing a funding cut of £1.5million, putting 40 jobs at risk and urged Minister Hargey to get real about helping people here.
The Foyle MLA commented:
“It is astounding that the Communities Minister has agreed to a real time cut of £1.5million for the advice sector. Given the context of COVID-19 and welfare cuts, which the Minister hasn’t sought funding to mitigate against, demand for independent advice services is at an all-time high. It beggars belief that the Minister would not seek to prioritise these vital services.”
“Across the North, the staff and volunteers of the independent advice sector are on the frontline, supporting some of our most vulnerable and deprived citizens. Their role is crucial and arguably will grow in importance, as the economic impact of the pandemic grows more acute.”
“It is also highly disappointing that the Minister appears to have made this decision unilaterally, with no consultation with the sector, who found out about this devastating blow through an Equality Impact Assessment.”
“If this is part of a cynical exercise to garner widespread political and public demand for an enhanced budget settlement for Department for Communities, and I hope that is what this is, then the Minister should reflect on the distress it has caused workers in this critical sector who are now anxious about losing their own jobs and very worried about the impact such a cut would have on the thousands of vulnerable people they strive to support.”
“The advice sector are vital, highly valued and relied upon by thousands, who struggle daily to navigate our callous benefits system. Minister Hargey should urgently rethink this appalling decision.”