Sinn Féin MLA for West Belfast and member of the Social Development Committee at Assembly has questioned the policy of issuing sanctions for minor infringements of benefit regulations and urged the committee to put back any statutory rules against those who commit the infringements.
Speaking today following the Social Development Committee, Fra McCann said:
“There are thousands of people who have been penalised and have lost benefits through these sanctions and left with no money whatsoever to live on.
“We have been told that there are hardship grants available to help but these are discretionary and difficult to get and also take some time to apply for. In the meantime vulnerable people are often left penniless.
“Sinn Féin have requested information about how many people have been affected and how long have they been sanctioned, that information is currently unavailable.
Our members on the committee have also raised the term ‘good cause’ which determines if the reason for the infringement by a person is good enough yet have little or no transparency.
“These measures are yet another part of the welfare reform legislation which Sinn Féin have battled against in the Social Development committee.
“In the long run those who are already facing hard times will be further disadvantaged but the British Tory led government do not have the foresight to see that denying people the basic level of entitlement will cost in the long run in terms of health and social care, community services and housing.
“It is high time these punitive measures were done away with. It is ludicrous in this day and age that a firm such as Vodaphone has £6bn written off by the British treasury yet those who receive as little as £60 a week face the highest levels of scrutiny.”