Cameron’s plan paving way for erosion of social security benefits

3 10 2013


Ballycastle SDLP Councillor Dónal Cunningham has responded to the British Government’s ‘work for benefits’ plan which David Cameron referred to in his speech at the Conservative Conference yesterday.

He said:

“The plans announced by the Prime Minister David Cameron regarding new conditions for the long-term jobless have worrying implications for people living in Northern Ireland

“The conditions being proposed include community work placements, daily visits to a job centre or taking part in compulsory training. Such proposals are overly onerous and are the latest in a long list of changes which the coalition hopes to roll out in the Welfare Reform Act.

“This latest step by the Conservatives is an attempt to penalise the unemployed rather than acknowledge the failings of the Government’s economic policies. This attitude towards those who have lost their job, young graduates and others who can’t secure work is disgraceful. The lack of empathy displayed by the Tories is quite breath-taking.

“The Welfare Reform Act and its provisions seem more and more to pave the way for the erosion of social security benefits which we in the SDLP have been warning about in the Assembly and at Westminster.”


Scrap the Bedroom Tax

5 04 2013

Ballycastle SDLP Councillor Dónal Cunningham has called for the all parties to bin the “Bedroom Tax” when the Welfare Reform Bill returns to the Assembly on 16th April.
Speaking following figures published by the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations and the Chartered Institute of Housing which show that the ‘Bedroom Tax’ will cost more to implement than it will save in housing benefit, Councillor Cunningham said.
“The bedroom tax will affect 32,000 households in the North, but the figures reveal that the direct cost of implementing the bedroom tax would be at least £21m across the housing associations and Housing Executive all of this to cut the benefits bill by £17m. The numbers don’t add up on Bedroom Tax and we can’t afford the human or economic damage this policy would inflict.
“Hopefully other political parties will take heed of this research and join with the SDLP to block the implementation of this invidious tax.”

Empty Purse Campaign

5 04 2013

Current changes being proposed to welfare benefits will have a particularly negative affect on women and children in NI and are being discussed by our politicians in Stormont NOW!
While welfare reform will affect the most vulnerable people in NI the “Empty Purse Campaign” focuses on the effect these reforms will have on Women and Children.

Women and Children
Women are affected more by these reforms as 20% of women’s incomes are made up of social security benefits/tax credits compared with 10% of men’s incomes .

Universal CreditUniversal Credit is a new ‘super benefit’ – Universal Credit will replace entirely the system of means-tested benefits and tax credits for working-age adults, including Income Support, income related Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit.

Who will get Universal Credit?The ‘Empty Purse Campaign’ focuses specifically on who the Universal Credit is paid to and how often it is paid

Single payment to one person in the household. First it is proposed that Universal Credit will be paid as a single payment to a nominated person in the household. Our major concern is that this payment will invariably go to the wallet of the ‘male head of household’, thus taking money (previously tax credits) from the purse. For many women this will result in the total removal of direct access to financial resources.

Universal Credit to be paid monthly!
Secondly, it is proposed that Universal Credit be paid monthly based on the idea that monthly payments are like “paid wages”. This proposal raises a huge amount of anxiety amongst women and families who are living on low and very low incomes who fear budgeting difficulties and increased levels of debt.

Join the ‘Empty Purse Campaign’ – Write to your MLAs asking that they
a.) Pay universal credit to the second earner/main carer in the family. Evidence shows that money spent from the purse is more likely to be spent on children and family needs than money spent from the wallet.
b.) That people can choose to have Universal Credit paid to them either monthly or fortnightly.

Assembly not doing enough to tackle Child Poverty

24 02 2013


Ballycastle SDLP Councillor Dónal Cunningham has criticized the Assembly for not doing enough to tackle Child Poverty.

Councillor Cunningham said “It is an indictment on us all that in the 21st century we have such high levels of child poverty in the North.”

“A Child Poverty Strategy was published in March 2011 which was the final days of the previous legislature; to date there has not been sufficient tangible evidence of the delivery or implementation of that Strategy.”

“I recognise that Child Poverty is not an issue that can be tackled in the short term. There are many factors which can impact on the ability to lift children out of poverty. The Assembly needs to focus on tackling these issues. They can best do this by working to provide parents, carers or legal guardians with the necessary support to raise their children

“Investment in children and young people is the most effective way in breaking through intergenerational cycles of poverty and social exclusion.”



Cunningham encourages older people to find out what they are entitled to

3 12 2012



With up to £2.3 million of Pension Credit unclaimed every week, Ballycastle SDLP Councillor Dónal Cunningham is encouraging older people to find out what benefits they are entitled to.

He added “The problem is that many older people don’t know what they are entitled to; very often the complexity of the benefit system puts people off; and many find the benefits system too complicated”.

 However there are many advice services only too willing to assist.

 “I would encourage older people to contact the Age NI Advice Line on freephone 0808 808 7575 for a free benefits check. An Age NI advisor will speak to them in confidence and help them find out what they are entitled to. Alternatively Councillor Cunningham can be contacted on 07745168922 to assist with any enquiries”

Councillors support “Maximising Access in Rural Areas” Project

4 11 2012


Moyle SDLP Councillors Catherine McCambridge and Dónal Cunningham have voiced their support for the MARA Maximising Access in Rural Areas” Project.

The project aims to improve the health and wellbeing of rural dwellers by increasing access to services, grants and benefits.

The MARA project will proactively target vulnerable households in identified rural communities using a community development approach. It seeks to increase access to home improvement schemes, access to full Benefit Entitlement checks, access to a range of local services and to community transport.

The programme is being run by North Antrim Community Network within the following electoral areas of Bonamargy, Rathlin, Glenshesk, Carnmoon, Dunseverick, Moyarget, Armoy, Mosside, Ballylough, Bushmills, Glenann, Glendun and Glenarriffe. To find out if you are eligible, contact North Antrim Community Network, Old School House, Mill Street, CushendallBT44 0RR    Tel 028 21772100

Cunningham encourages elderly to check up on their benefit entitlement

5 11 2011

Ballycastle SDLP Councillor Dónal Cunningham is supporting the AgeNI “Spread the Warmth” campaign this winter by encouraging older people to make every effort to ensure they are receiving all their benefit entitlements.

“Every week in the North between £1.2 and £2.3 million pounds in Pension Credit goes unclaimed, yet almost 65,000 older people are living in poverty. There are many reasons for this – many older people don’t know what they are entitled to; sometimes the complexity of the benefit system puts people off; often the claims process is just too complicated.”

Councillor Cunningham recommends that older people use the service by contacting the Age NI Advice Line on freephone 0808 808 7575 for a free benefits check. An Age NI advisor will speak to them in confidence and help them find out what they are entitled to.