Welfare Reform mitigations must continue, but the core problem must be addressed.
18 Jan 2019
Speaking after the report on Welfare Reform by the NI Auditor Kieran Donnelly, the ICTU Assistant General Secretary Owen Reidy said:
“This report is a vindication of the position taken by the trade union movement since 2012* when former Tory Welfare minister Iain Duncan Smith unveiled his plans for the most comprehensive overhaul of the UK Welfare system in a century. So far, all we have seen is vindictive scapegoating and cruel sanctioning of claimants and huge ‘savings’ for HM Treasury which went to pay for tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. While the proponents of these ‘reforms’ preached about ‘responsibility’, billions were wasted on doomed IT projects and outsourcing to incompetent benefits assessors, such as ATOS, who decreed dying cancer patients as ‘fit for work’.
“The mitigations in Northern Ireland would not have been introduced in 2016 were it not for the strong and united opposition of the trade union movement, with allies across civil society and some politicians. Since then, the rollout of Universal Credit has been delayed by chaos and incompetent Tory political leadership from Westminster, and the time limit on the £585 million for welfare mitigations could cease as there is no Stormont Executive to renew or amend the fund.
“This cannot be too complicated to fix, and we sincerely hope that this will not be used by the current Secretary of State to pressure NI political parties to resume their positions in the NI Executive. Political devolution and powersharing should be restored, on the basis of delivering all of commitments under the Good Friday Agreement / Belfast Agreement, and not the threat of causing further hardship to impoverished people.
“We support the call by expert groups* that the mitigations in Northern Ireland must continue for as long as in necessary, until we have a government in Westminster to admit the Tory version of helping the vulnerable only caused hurt, while facilitating a massive transfer of wealth to the already wealthy. The Tory Welfare reform strategy, and its rotten foundation of Universal Credit, must be called to a halt.”