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.

Maginness urges U-turn on ‘bedroom tax’

28 02 2013

Bedroom Tax


SDLP North Belfast MLA Alban Maginness has warned Minister Nelson McCausland of the potentially devastating impacts of the so-called “bedroom tax,” and has urged him to reverse his decision.

 Mr Maginness said;

 “In a recent question to the Minister of Social Development, he revealed that almost 4,200 people in the North Belfast area alone would be at risk of financial penalty with the introduction of a “bedroom tax.”

 “This could be potentially devastating for many families who are already struggling as a result of the economic downturn, and will undoubtedly push many into financial hardship, or force them from their homes. The flawed policy takes no account of individual circumstances, such as single parent families who may not have their children living with them on a permanent basis.

 “It also fails to consider ill or disabled people, many of whom rely on overnight carers or the need for extra bedrooms by foster parents who provide a much needed home for vulnerable young people.

 “I have no confidence in the “discretionary payments” that the Minister is promising, and this is a completely unacceptable attempt to plug the hole in this flawed policy. Further to this, the fact that the Minister saw fit to return £15 million to the Finance Minister in the past two months demonstrates a failure on his part to adequately allocate his budget. It is a slap in the face to those who he is taking more money from, and shows his complete incompetence and strategic oversight in relation to financial management.

 “The figures released by the Minister suggest that there will be tens of thousands of people penalised by the introduction of the “bedroom tax” across the North. The SDLP will do everything we can to prevent implementation of this unfair and illogical tax on the vulnerable.”

Welfare Reform will have negative impact on economy

27 10 2012

Ballycastle SDLP Councillor Dónal Cunningham has warned about the economic effects of the Welfare Reform Bill.

The Welfare Reform Bill will impact on those who are currently in receipt of Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Income Support, Income Based Job Seekers Allowance and income related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Housing Benefit who will be moved to Universal Credit.  

Many working people in receipt of tax credits will have already seen a reduction in Tax Credits from 1 April 2012 and it is likely a further reduction will be imposed by the introduction of this legislation.  The SDLP are opposed to the Bill and believe it is unjust to further attack the most vulnerable in our society.

It is estimated that if implemented it will remove approximately £500m from the North’s economy and will impact on both in work and out of work families. 

 Public sector workers currently working in the delivery of the benefits affected i.e. Housing Benefit (NIHE) Income Support, Job Seekers and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Tax Credits (HMRC) will be negatively impacted with a proposed reduction of up to 1600 jobs. It is important that we all work hard to protect these vital public service jobs.

Welfare cuts hitting the working poor

18 05 2012

Ballycastle SDLP Councillor Dónal Cunningham has said he is concerned by the number of local working families who have been reporting receiving notification of overpayments of Tax Credit with many being asked to repay money from last year.

Cllr Cunningham said: “A number of local families have received notifications saying that their Family Tax Credit is either being cut altogether, or have been informed that they have been overpaid and are now being asked to repay this money.

“This is deeply distressing – these people are the working poor – many of them working as hard as they can just to make ends meet; none of them are in any position to repay money received in good faith.

“These letters mark the start of the ruthless welfare reform cuts brought in by the British Government and being implemented by the Assembly.”

Cunningham backs motion opposing cap on Housing Benefit

24 11 2011

SDLP Councillor Dónal Cunningham will vote in support of a motion proposed by Councillor Joan Baird which opposes the “cap” on Housing Benefit.
“The Tories brought housing benefit caps in under the guise of forcing London landlords to reduce rents. This policy is wrong in London and even more wrong here.
The cuts, which will be imposed from 2011/12, are directed at tenants in receipt of housing benefit for private rented tenants. Implementing the cap on Housing Benefit will severely disadvantage people who are already in severe poverty, people on benefits and low pay will have to spend more of their incomes on rent and this will in most cases mean surviving on lower levels of food and heating.