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Sinn Féin to Meet Social Development Minister to Raise Welfare Concerns

22 November, 2011 - by Fra McCann

    The impact of the British government’s Welfare Reform legislation on the chronically ill and disabled are amongst a number of concerns Sinn Féin will raise with Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland tomorrow.

Heading the Sinn Féin delegation will be Social Development Committee chairperson Alex Maskey accompanied by deputy committee chair Mickey Brady and committee member Fra McCann. 

    Speaking prior to the meeting Alex Maskey said Sinn Féin was very concerned about the negative impact some of the changes being imposed by Westminster as part of their Welfare Reform could have on people here.

    “Recent research papers by the Institute of Fiscal Studies and other academic institutions have refuted claims by the British Department of Work and Pensions and shown that some changes in the benefit system, rather than addressing poverty, will increase hardship amongst the most vulnerable,” said Alex Maskey 

    “Amongst other issues, we will be raising concerns about the reassessment process for those in presently in receipt of benefit due to incapacity. The assessment process currently underway in England has proven to be totally inefficient and is now reported to be in danger of collapse.”

    According to recent reports the company contracted to carry out the new Work Capability Assessment is declaring hundreds of thousands of people fit-for-work on the basis of a tick box questionnaire only to have that decision over turned on appeal.

    In England, the number of appeals by claimants who believe they have been incorrectly assessed has quadrupled within the last two years and is expected to reach 240,000 by the end of this year.

    “Clearly we don’t want a similar scenario unfolding here. Unfortunately one of the last decisions made by the former Social Development Minister, Alex Attwood, just before he left office, was to employ the same private company, Atos, whose record has been so controversial in Britain, to carry out the assessment process here,” said Alex Maskey.

    “Triggering so many appeals on the basis of a poor decision making process is not only costly in terms of public finance but also in terms of the unnecessary financial hardship and stress to the individual who has had their right to benefit wrongly curtailed.”

    “Sinn Féin will be asking Minister McCausland what measures he has undertaken to ensure such a fiasco that is currently being experienced in Britain, will not be repeated here.” Crioc 

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