SINN FEIN FAIL AT STORMONT TO POSTPONE WELFARE REFORM BILL

SINN FEIN has lost out on a bid to postpone the new Welfare Reform Bill at Stormont.

Housing Minister Nelson McCausland announces changes in Welfare Reform Bill

Last week, a motion on the Welfare Reform Bill passed by 60 votes to 42 in the debating chamber.

This morning a motion put forward by Sinn Fein MLAs Fra McCann and Micky Brady to postpone the motion failed.

Now the Bill will go before a Stormont Committee for a detailed consideration before it goes on the Statute Book.

Sinn Fein have opposed the Bill on the grounds that it will hit the poorest people the hardest in the community.

On Saturday, marchers at an anti-austerity rally in Belfast were told that poor people were “living on the edge of the abyss”.

And a number of recent suicides in the Greater Belfast area are being linked to poverty and financial worries.

Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland, whose DUP party supports the Bill, said planned changes in benefit payments will start in April 2014, six months later than the rest of the UK.

Under proposals drafted by the Westminster government, a new universal payment will come into force next year.

Under the changes to six benefit payments, including housing benefit, will be rolled into one monthly universal payment.

He told the Assembly that last week he Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud who gave him a number of commitments in writing on matters he had raised.

Housing benefit would be paid directly to the landlord and not the tenant.

And the Minister revealed that there would be two smaller payments in a month rather than one single payment.

“We will have a system to break the scourge of workless households,” he told MLAs.

“I am committed to the principle that people should always be better off in work.

“I’m committed to the socity security parity with the rest of the UK but I recognise our unique conditions in Northern Ireland.”

Sinn Fein MLA Alex Maskey welcomed the changes announced by the Minister but added: “A lot more work needs to be done.”

 

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