The welfare reform bill was introduced to the Northern Ireland Assembly on 1 October 2012 and proposes radical changes to Northern Ireland’s welfare and social security system. The changes will affect everyone in receipt of benefit. The Welfare Reform Group have written a briefing paper outlining their concerns.
The Welfare Reform Group campaigns for positive changes to policy, service provision and legislation for those in receipt of social security. The group, which is facilitated by the Law Centre NI, is made up of 25 organisationse such as community groups, trade unions and charities.
Four members of the group - Mencap, Disability Action, Multiple Scoliosis Society Northern Ireland and Carers Northern Ireland - produced a briefing paper that outlines the significant issues and likely impact of the implementation of the welfare reform bill.
The briefing paper identifies five key areas of concern in relation to the welfare reform bill surrounding:
- Measuring and mitigating impact of the reforms
- Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
- Universal Credit
- Changes to Contributory Employment Support
- Social Fund reform.
Jenny Ruddy, Mencap in Northern Ireland’s campaigns officer said that as many as 24,000 people in Northern Ireland could, for example, lose DLA under the changes. Jenny said:
The changes proposed to the assessment process for disability benefits will require greater understanding of learning disability by decision makers and improved access by people with a learning disability and their families to independent and organisations that can provide support, as they make their way through this complex and daunting process.