Alliance Party Health Spokesperson Paula Bradshaw has warned that research from the MS Society demonstrates that welfare reforms are not achieving their original purpose, and are merely causing further strain on families and the Health Service.
The South Belfast MLA stated: “I commend the MS Society on its work showing the cost of the ’20-metre rule’ is in fact being registered not as a saving, but as a further cost to people with MS and their families and to the Health Service.
“At a time when the Health Service is being reformed across the UK and particularly when we are going through a highly complex transformation process in Northern Ireland, the last thing we need is further strain being placed on it by ill-thought-out policy in other areas of government.
“It is notable also that the cost of having family members working fewer hours to care for people denied welfare support already makes up more than half the saving solely in lost tax revenue. When added to the further strain on physical and mental well-being it could even be that the MS Society’s figures are an underestimate, as the value of work lost will also take away from the crude savings to the benefits system.
“The purpose of welfare reform was to ensure people who can be supported to play a full role in society to do so. Increasingly, rules applied crudely regardless of the condition are achieving the precise opposite – in fact restricting people from contributing to society as they can and would wish to. This, added to the strain on an already stretched Health Service, means that a rethink is clearly necessary.”