People will be further disadvantaged unless more money found for Communities Budget, says Armstrong

Unless more money is found for the Department for Communities’ Budget, people in Northern Ireland will be further disadvantaged, Alliance Communities spokesperson Kellie Armstrong MLA has said.

Ms Armstrong was speaking after the Budget papers were presented to MLAs at the Assembly’s Communities Committee meeting. She said the Communities Minister and Finance Minister needed to “review and reallocate” funds so the most vulnerable in our society could be protected from poverty.

“This is a devastating Budget allocation presented by the Department for Communities, certainly one of the most austere proposed in recent years,” said the Strangford MLA.

“At a time when the impact of the pandemic is pushing people into unemployment, poverty and financial stress, we are facing a cliff edge. Realistically, this Budget could mean potential delays in universal credit, funding for many organisations reduced, no labour force market interventions and a reduction in home maintenance targets, to state just a few. We may also miss out on a number of strategies, including disability, gender, sexual orientation and anti-poverty.

“The Community and Finance Ministers need to show leadership rather than blaming Westminster and austerity. They must review and reallocate funds that will protect the most vulnerable in our society, to ensure equality of provision for people living in financial stress. It is time for innovation, negotiation and joined-up government.

“We have already suffered through a terrible and devastating 2020. Unless more money is allocated to the Department for Communities, many already in poverty will face an even more bleak 2021.”