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Anderson blasts benefits age discrimination

19 December, 2009 - by Maeve McLaughlin

Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson has strongly criticised the Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie for her “defence of a benefits system which blatantly discriminates against young people”.
Ms. Anderson was speaking after questioning the Minister on the fact that different rates of key benefits are paid to people under the age of 25.

“I believe it is wrong and blatant discrimination that young people are being pushed into poverty and homelessness for no other reason that their age,”

Ms. Anderson commented.

“For example, a single person in a one-bedroom property who is over 25 is entitled to £77.15 Housing Benefit a week. However, someone in the exact same circumstances but who happens to be under 25 is only entitled to £41.21 a week

“Similarly, a single person aged 25 or over is entitled to £64.30 Jobseekers Allowance a week while a single person who is under 25 is only entitled to £50.95. That is a total of almost £50 a week which is being denied to under 25’s.

“Furthermore, people under 25 are not allowed to claim Working Tax Credit. This is despite the fact that Working Tax Credit is supposed to be an incentive to get people back into employment. But rather than helping the 16-25 age group back into work they are actually being penalised.

“I realise that full responsibility for the benefits system has not yet been transferred to the Assembly but the Minister should be lobbying for more control and for substantial reform in the meantime.

“However, I was extremely disappointed by her response in which she defended this inequality on the basis that under-25’s expect less and have fewer financial responsibilities.

“The minister said she does not regard this situation as age-based discrimination despite the fact that two people with identical living arrangements can be entitled to two completely different rates because of no other reason than their age.

“I believe that these benefits should be means tested not age tested and I am calling on the Minister to stop defending the indefensible and start defending our young people instead.”

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