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Sinn Féin to table amendments to flawed Welfare Reform Bill

17 June, 2007

Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson, West Belfast MLA Fra McCann has confirmed that Sinn Féin will table a number of amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill being debated at Stormont tomorrow, Monday 18th June.

The Welfare Reform Bill is being brought forward by the Department of Social Development. The consideration stage for this legislation, which is being rushed through the Assembly, is the only opportunity for amendments to be considered.

Describing the legislation as flawed Mr McCann said:

"Sinn Féin will be tabling a number of amendments to this flawed legislation. We cannot simply abandon people or force them out of their homes.

"Sinn Féin have a number of serious concerns that we hope can be rectified through these amendments; that should provide proper protections and guarantees for some of the most vulnerable people in our society, particularly people who find themselves in debt, who live on low income and benefits and those with mental health problems.

"We need to ensure that people who fall into to debt are not abandoned by the system; left to struggle until it is too late. We need to put in place proper early warning systems and we need to pro-actively support them. We need to put in place proper debt counselling for vulnerable people applying for housing benefit.

"We all know people who have been depressingly ill; to the point of suicide, because they had a secret they felt they could not share with others. And that secret was debt. How many people have we spoken to were ashamed that anyone would know that they were deeply in debt and felt they had no where to turn?

"We need to ensure that there are protections for those people who are most vulnerable in our community from possible an arrears eviction.

"Any attempt to address the serious weakness in much of the benefit system has to be welcomed, and that is recognised by many groups, and organisations throughout Britain, but what happens there does not always fit here. The two amendments I will table will set out guarantees that could give some protection to people who could easily fall prey to a system, which has proved disastrous when used in the past.

"One would be forgiven for believing that this bill is more to do with removing people from benefit than making their lives better." ENDS

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