CONGRESS CALLS FOR FULL CIVIC AND POLITICAL SCRUTINY OF WELFARE BILL

1 Oct 2012

The Welfare Reform Bill will be introduced to the NI Assembly on Monday, 1st October, by the Minister for Social Development, Nelson McCausland.

The Northern Ireland Committee of the ICTU welcomes the comment by the minister that:
"There has already been much public debate on the proposals contained within the Welfare Reform Bill, and I welcome the fact that the Bill can now be fully interrogated, through the proper legislative process, which will ensure that all those with an interest in the proposed reforms can have their say."

ICTU Assistant General Secretary, Peter Bunting said: "The Welfare Reform Bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation to come before the NI Assembly. The trade unions and our allies in the community sector have been intensively lobbying on this issue for several months and it is imperative that those who will be most affected by the proposed changes to the Welfare State have their say and are listened to by MLAs.

"According to research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies for the Law Centre NI, this region will be the second most severely afflicted by the Tory plan to re-engineer the Welfare State. It is essential that all aspects are interrogated by MLAs, the DSD Committee and wider civil society. The local media have a crucial role to play, as the debate has been dominated by myths and spin emanating from the friends of Iain Duncan Smith.

"We must not be spun into accepting that our future prosperity depends upon the sacrifice of the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed and those clinging onto the safety net.

"The DSD Minister, his scrutiny committee and the entire Assembly have a crucial role to play. And yet, their position would be even stronger if they were to work closely with the Scottish Parliament and the Wales Assembly to express the collective opposition of the devolved regions and nations to the cramped and ideological views of Tory think-tanks in London.

"Despite the bluster from Iain Duncan-Smith, these 'reforms' are about slashing the welfare budget by £18 billion, which means over £750 million being sucked out of the local economy in Northern Ireland.

"Morally and financially, we cannot afford this Bill.

"NIC-ICTU takes this opportunity to call on those who are frustrated, angry and victims of austerity measures emanating from the Westminster government to come out and join their trade union brothers and sisters rallying against the cuts in welfare, education, health and other public services on Saturday 20th October."