A group that provides support to welfare claimants has said that modifications to Westminster’s welfare reforms are not enough to protect people with vulnerabilities.
Mary McManus of East Belfast Independent Advice Centre told a conference in Belfast: “It’s like throwing a bucket of water at a massive fire. It’s not going to help,” reports the BBC.
Steve Cullen, the chief executive of Warrington Citizens Advice Bureau, who are currently trailing universal credit has said there are significant problems with the system, and he does not believe it is ready for a national roll-out.
Even though only 1600 people are on universal credits in his ward, he is receiving at least one person a day seeking help with problems to their benefit payments.
He identified several problems with the system.
• Applying for universal credits is done primarily online, so is difficult for people with low literacy or no internet access.
• The minimum period of time between applying for universal credits and receiving the first payment is five weeks.
• Mistakes made in administering the system have a big impact on people.
Mr Cullen said: “Already we’re getting young single people who are moving in with partners, getting jobs, losing jobs, moving house. The system does not seem to me to be able to cope with people’s real life situations. They call them ‘complex cases’, I just see it as being people’s ordinary lives.”
An announcement that payments in Northern Ireland would be made fortnightly rather than monthly has been welcomed by support groups.
Ms McManus said: “We welcome the minister’s package of measures to mitigate against the most negative impacts of the welfare reform bill, and to protect the most vulnerable. However, the evidence from England and Scotland shows that they will not protect the most vulnerable.”
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