Judith Cochrane MLA said: “The Welfare Reform Bill that is currently going through the Assembly originates from the legislation that was passed in Westminster. If we delay the implementation of this Bill then we would be breaking parity and we could then have to establish our own welfare system including the computer system to deliver it.
“Westminster was the place to make significant changes to this Bill and our MP Naomi Long voted for a number of amendments to be made. Due to Sinn Fein’s continued absence from Westminster they were unable to vote against these reforms like Naomi was able to do.
“We could also lose around 1,000 Department of Work and Pension jobs in Northern Ireland if we end up with a different welfare system as a consequence of this delaying tactic.
“We need to be honest with the public. The Assembly only has flexibility around the edges. This delaying tactic is nothing but grandstanding that will achieve nothing except to risk serious financial burdens on Northern Ireland. The people who will lose out if this Bill is delayed are the vulnerable members of our society, who could be at risk of not receiving benefits for a period of time.
“We must focus our efforts on amending the delivery options and ensuring there are adequate numbers of trained staff to offer advice and assistance to those affected as the new system rolls out.”