Mid Ulster SDLP representatives along with the Law Centre NI held a well-attended Welfare ‘Reform’ Public Meeting in Walsh’s Hotel, Maghera on Tuesday 26th February. As well as the Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone and local Councillors, Martin Kearney and Christine McFlynn, the SDLP MLA for East Derry, John Dallat was also present. The meeting was addressed by Ciara Fitzpatrick and Rachael Jeffers from The Law Centre.
Speaking afterwards, Mr McGlone said, “Together with Ciara Fitzpatrick and Rachael Jeffers from The Law Centre, SDLP representatives were at the meeting to provide information and assistance on how to best navigate the continuing changes to the Welfare System.
“Many of the queries and problems being dealt with by our constituency offices in Maghera and Cookstown relate to cuts being imposed through those changes.
“This well-attended public meeting was an opportunity to address the most frequent issues being faced by claimants.
“There are difficulties are being caused by cuts in benefits received due to re-assessments for the new Personal Independence Payments (PIP). Those assessments are currently outsourced to the private company Capita and too often the points scorings have been inconsistent and questionable to say the least. We have met on a number of occasions with the Department and Capita to highlight these issues.
“There have been a number of cases where, in the switchover from DLA to PIP, people have lost their Enhanced Mobility Allowance and, as a result, access to affordable transport due to these assessments.
“The SDLP has already raised these issues with the Department for Communities and with the Audit Office.
“The roll-out of Universal Credit has also caused many problems. There have been irregular payments during the period of assessment for people in employment where the new system had already been introduced. This has been the source of hardship for claimants and, despite recent announcements, remains a concern here.
“In the absence of a functioning Executive the SDLP will continue to work with all agencies, representing our constituents, and directly engaging with the public on the issues that matter to them.”