Cochrane says Assembly should not be playing games with Welfare Reform

Alliance Social Development spokesperson Judith Cochrane has said that some parties in the Assembly are playing games with our welfare system. Sinn Fein has tabled a motion at the Assembly to delay the progress of the Welfare Reform Bill, however if the tight timetable for the implementation of this Bill is not met then Northern Ireland could be faced with additional costs of around £200m.

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.”


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