McGlone: More support for families facing benefit sanctions is needed

SDLP MLA for Mid Ulster, Patsy McGlone, has said that more support is required for families facing benefit sanctions, including home visits for families with children before any sanctions are imposed.

The Mid Ulster MLA said, “The regressive Universal Credit sanction regime is much harsher than before. The Department for Communities is trying to put measures in place to prevent people getting to the point of being sanctioned, but much more work needs to be done.

“It is important that changes are made to give more protection to claimants who are facing sanctions. Although home visits are currently carried out in cases where there are mental health issues, home visits should also be made to any family with children who are due to be hit with a financial sanction. It is important that these visits take place before any sanction is imposed to give these families as much support as possible.

“The Department has admitted that people’s entitlement to Universal Credit in Northern Ireland alone will fall by £105 million every single year. This figure tells us everything we need to know about the intentions of Universal Credit. In the absence of an accompanying Jobs Strategy, it is not empowering people into employment. Instead, it will continue to impact upon the most vulnerable in our society.

“Welfare cuts are pushing working families and vulnerable people further into poverty. When the current mitigation scheme runs out in 2020, people are going to be thrown into even deeper levels of poverty and despair.

“While others shrug their shoulders and abdicate their responsibilities, the SDLP will continue to be a voice for the vulnerable and advocate on their behalf.”