SDLP Social Justice Spokesperson Daniel McCrossan has said it is imperative that the public receives detailed welfare advice.
He was speaking after the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman ordered the Department for Communities to pay a taxi driver more than £11,000 after not advising him of the impact of a Universal Credit application on his working tax credits.
Mr McCrossan said that it was vital that everyone in the North is made aware of the welfare payments they are entitled to and given thorough advice when applying.
West Tyrone MLA Mr McCrossan said:
“It’s shameful that a taxi driver in the North lost out on over £11,000 over a four-year period after being badly advised when seeking help applying for welfare. It’s impossible to calculate the impact this has had on the life of the man involved, particularly given the financial pressures facing families across the North, but I am deeply concerned that many other people could be in a similar position.
“Applying for welfare can be a painstaking and lengthy process and it’s vitally important that people receive meticulous advice with dedicated care and attention provided to each and every case. I know that the vast majority of our welfare advisers go above and beyond to help people accessing the system, but it’s important to remember that behind these applications is a person, with families and responsibilities and any mistake could have serious consequences for the applicant.
“I will be seeking reassurances from the Department for Communities about the training put in place for staff and to ascertain what action they will be taking as a result of this case to ensure nothing similar happens in future. We also need to see a greater effort to make the public aware of what benefits they are entitled to, as we know that many people are missing out and now more than ever people need every penny just to get by.”