Armstrong: Action needed to stop targeting of most vulnerable in budget cuts

Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong has said there is a need for Civil Service Permanent Secretaries to ensure Departments complete full impact assessments to stop the most vulnerable from being targeted by budget cuts in 18/19.

It follows a letter from the Assembly All-Party Group on Older People to the Department of Health asking for clarification on what steps were taken to ensure the needs of older people were being met in the proposed cuts to health trusts.

At last month’s meeting of the group, Ms Armstrong had asked the APG to write to seek clarification from the Department of Health as to the reasoning for a lack of an equality impact assessment in relation to the proposed cuts.

She said all Departments should ensure they did similar in future. In recent weeks we have seen DFI take forward changes to guidelines to minibus driving that will have an indirect negative impact on services for older people, people with disabilities and children. Again no equality impact assessment was completed before the decision to change was made.

“We already know next year’s Budget will see a reduction in our block grant and further pressures put on different Departments, with reductions likely across the board. Financial plans should aim to help not hinder citizens and in order to know what potential harm could be done, an equality impact assessment needs to be completed.

“At the most recent meeting of the All-Party Group on Older People, I pushed for the Department to explain why the Trusts hadn’t completed such an assessment prior to proposing cuts. This should be one of the first, not last actions any Department should take when considering development or reduction of services.

Permanent Secretaries of all Departments should ensure impact assessments are completed before any further cuts are proposed. Without them, we will be unable to know if there are any intended or unintended consequences of change.”

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