Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith unveiled his new Welfare Reform plans this week, ahead of the launch of Universal Credit – a new benefit system – next year.
Universal Credit plans to replace a range of existing allowances with a single system. It was originally intended to replicate monthly salary payments, encouraging the unemployed to budget, plan expenditure and manage their money more effectively.
Judith Cochrane MLA – who is a member of the Social Development Committee – has said she will be scrutinising the Welfare Reform Bill when it comes through the committee in the coming weeks.
She said: “I wholeheartedly welcome the decision by the Secretary to facilitate an alternative to the planned monthly payment scheme, so that the lowest-paid receive their benefits fortnightly.
“Many workers are not used to receiving a monthly salary and they cannot be expected to know how to automatically budget this way. This decision allows those who want monthly payments to have them, but those who aren’t ready for that step may be given fortnightly payments and extra support.
“I am pleased to hear the Secretary speak about flexibility with regard to Welfare Reform. This bodes well for Northern Ireland recipients, and I am keen to pursue as much flexibility as parity will allow.”
“I am also keen to see training and support for the most vulnerable, particularly in terms of learning how to budget.”