Armstrong calls for additional pandemic benefit support to be extended

Alliance Communities spokesperson Kellie Armstrong MLA has called for additional benefit support provided during the pandemic to be extended for a further three months.

A number of benefits provided by the Department for Communities during the coronavirus crisis are due to end, with weekly food parcels for those without a shielding letter already stopping last week.

“While we hoped the COVID-19 crisis would have passed by now, it hasn’t. Some social measures have eased but we are still in lockdown and many people need to continue availing of the protections and benefits introduced in March,” said Strangford MLA Ms Armstrong.

“Food parcels for those not shielding have ended as of last week and they are due to end in another month for people who have a GP shielding letter. We need to see an extension to see people through what is predicted to be the toughest economic part of lockdown, particularly for those who will lose jobs or their regular income as furloughing measures change and business try to reopen while the pandemic is still here.

“An additional three months of the Coronavirus Support Package will give some certainty for those who are otherwise facing an uncertain future. The Department needs to confirm if people will be required to attend assessment centres to continue to access support, if PIP renewals will be automatic, when debt recovery and loan repayments will start again, if tax credits will continue to be able to be claimed when a person loses their job as a result of COVID-19 and if the Discretionary Support and Contingency Fund arrangements will continue.

“The economic impact of lockdown has not ended. Coronavirus continues to force people into unemployment and poverty. People need clarification and confidence the Government is still as committed to helping them as they were back in March.”