The meeting took place on Tuesday 29 November at Parliament Buildings during which MLAs, Patsy McGlone SDLP, Jim Wells DUP, Mark Durkan SDLP and Chris Lyttle Alliance met with people with a disability, their family, carers and representatives from the disability sector, including Mencap, RNIB and Disability Action.
The All Party Groups discussed the impact of welfare reform, highlighting concerns about changes to housing benefit, disability living allowance and other benefits and the need for proper parliamentary scrutiny by the Northern Ireland Assembly when the proposals come to Northern Ireland in 2012.
Paul McGowan, who has a learning disability, spoke at the meeting about his own experience and about the experiences of other young people with a learning disability. He said that young people rely on their benefits to help them become more independent and to cover extra costs linked to disability, such as paying for a special diet or for extra heating in their home, to travel on their own to go to hospital or doctor’s appointments or meet up with their friends.
Presentations were given by Ricky Rowledge, Director of Council for the Homeless NI, Laura Niwa from the Law Centre, Kevin Doherty from Disability Action and Harry Reid from RNIB.
The All Party Groups were asked:
- to write to the Minister for Social Development asking him to take account of the distinct needs and circumstances of disabled people and the different administrative and legislative context which operates in Northern Ireland
- to request that the Social Development Committee establish an inquiry into the impact of the welfare reform proposals on disabled people
- to write to Lord Freud, drawing attention to the concerns highlighted in the meeting and asking him to ensure that the Welfare Reform changes do not result in essential support being removed from disabled people and their families.
Images from the meeting are on Mencap's Flickr.
If you would like more information, please contact Rebecca Shea, Secretariat for the All-Party Group on Learning Disability at Rebecca.firstname.lastname@example.org or 07825794428.