Social Democratic and Labour Party Leader Colum Eastwood MP has said the British government cannot allow a real-terms cut to welfare payments during a cost of living emergency.
He was speaking after Prime Minister Liz Truss declined to say whether benefits would increase in line with inflation, despite a commitment from her predecessor Boris Johnson.
Mr Eastwood said the government should be introducing protections for the worst off in society.
Foyle MP Mr Eastwood said:
“Soaring inflation has meant that people’s wages are worth a fraction of what they once were, the cost of everything from food to fuel is increasing and people simply don’t have the money to pay for it. Those who rely on welfare payments, many of whom are in-work, were struggling long before this crisis and a refusal by the government to increase payments in line with inflation will be a crushing blow to people across the North and Britain.
"This would be an absolutely heartless decision that would result in people being forced to skip meals, live in cold houses and cut out the few luxuries they can afford. Everyone, from pensioners to children will suffer. Too many families across the North are already living in poverty and if this government goes ahead with decisions like this the situation is going to get much, much worse.
“I have written to the Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng outlining a number of proposals including increasing welfare payments in line with inflation, pausing social security debt collection, ending the two-child limit on Universal Credit and Child Tax Credits and reinstating the £20 weekly cut that has left so many families worse off. Now is the time for positive interventions to get people through the difficult time ahead. Instead of rewarding the well-off and hurting the vulnerable, the Tories should be introducing policies that will make a real difference to people’s lives."