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Sinn Féin demand answers from Social Development Minister

29 December, 2007

Sinn Féin MLA Fra Mc Cann has called on the Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie to explain to people the proposed changes to the way housing benefit will be paid for future claimants and those who change tenancies from the end of March this year,

Mr Mc Cann said,

"The payments due to be introduced in March this year will see a cut in benefits for thousands of people who rely on this type of benefit to pay their rent in the private rented sector.

"The Minister knows that there are already serious problems with people who are either on income support or are low earners and who already have to subsidise their rents with many paying £200 over and above the housing benefit rate to keep a roof over their head.

"These tenants will find themselves in a worse situation if these new proposals are implemented.

"Margaret Ritchie knows these proposed changes will have a devastating effect on those most in need of our help in society; she should spell out to people what she is going to do about this.

"Her officials found it difficult trying to explain away these cuts at a social development committee meeting several weeks ago, saying it would only impact on those who apply for the first time or those who change address

"However, this will impact on many thousands of people and no amount of dressing this up will hide this fact.

"TheMinister needs to explain her position on these proposed changes, and be honest with people. Housing benefit is a benefit paid to those in need and this could leave many people on the streets because they are unable to pay their rents.

"Sinn Féin demand answers. I have written to Margaret Ritchie asking her to explain her departments position.

"Will she now just sit by and allow those in receipt of housing benefit suffer from savage cuts to their housing benefit rate?" Críoch

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