SDLP Social Justice Spokesperson Mark H Durkan MLA has criticised the Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey for her failure to bring forward urgent legislation to address the loopholes in welfare mitigations.
The Foyle MLA commented:
“It is extremely concerning that legislation to close the loopholes in welfare mitigations, essentially introducing protections for vulnerable people, is yet to be brought forward.
“The recent Executive Budget included funding to close the benefit cap and bedroom tax loopholes, which is very welcome and something myself and others have pushed for. However, we are now in a situation whereby the absence of legislation could render this allocation null and void.
“The reality remains that if welfare mitigations legislation is not brought before the Assembly in advance of the summer recess, the Department for Communities runs the risk of a serious underspend. As was the case with the return of £2million allocated to the Discretionary Support Self-Isolation Grant at the height of the Covid pandemic. To return money intended to assist vulnerable people during a time of crisis is unforgivable.
“Last week I requested an urgent briefing from departmental officials on where this legislation currently sits but the Committee really should have received the legislation by now. The fact we even needed to ask is shocking and lays bare the Minister’s lackadaisical approach.
“The clock is ticking and Minister Hargey cannot rely on Covid as an excuse in this instance. Welfare mitigations legislation should have been prioritised from the outset and her failure to recognise the urgency of this issue means that 1,000 families here may not be protected from the worst of Tory welfare reform. That is disgraceful.
“It is vital that we get this legislation laid down as soon as possible to ensure it is fully scrutinised by the Assembly and stakeholders. I have submitted a priority question to Minister Hargey and urge her to get a grip on welfare mitigations particularly now as the economic impact of the pandemic is fully realised.”