Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

'Cuts to social security benefits will hurt everyone of us in Northern Ireland'

'Cuts to benefits will hurt everyone of us in Northern Ireland'
'Cuts to benefits will hurt everyone of us in Northern Ireland'

If you are not in receipt of any benefits, why should you worry if the Stormont Executive merrily wields the axe on somebody’s DLA or Housing Benefit at the behest of the Con/Dem Government?

After all, aren’t we are all in this together?

So reigning in this lavish welfare spending on the scroungers in society, a bit of belt tightening and pulling ourselves up by the boot straps while keeping a stiff upper lip seems perfectly reasonable to get us out of this terrible financial mess – right?

Wrong.

According to a recent report commissioned by NICVA and based on the Government’s own data, cuts to social security will cost the Northern Ireland economy around £750 million per year and this will negatively impact on every one of us.

That is because society works in an interconnected way and when you remove massive amounts of money out of the economy, we all suffer.

Much to their irritation, these cuts signal that the Tories have been unable to isolate this class of ‘undeserving poor’ who they want us to believe are simply sponging off the State and from the ‘strivers’.

The reason being is these mythical hoards of scroungers don’t exist.

Of course there are some exceptions to the rule and we all know about them because right-wing biased media trot them out every day.

This is to ensure the ‘them and us’ narrative takes hold and makes those ‘hard working families’ Mr Cameron is always banging on about believe it is ok to target the so called ‘feckless’.

It is both sad and ironic that it is actually those very ‘hard working families’ Cameron speaks of, along with the most vulnerable in our society such as children, the disabled and the sick who will be the hardest hit.

The stance of the Government is those working families who are in a situation of ‘in work poverty’ mustn’t be working hard enough.

It is based on an ideology that taking the benefits away from people will help them find a job. And it is based on an illogical and flawed economic theory that all this extra labour supply will somehow create its own demand and more work.

Even though Northern Ireland already has the highest levels of child poverty and fuel poverty in the countries of the UK and Ireland we are set to be the worst affected region in the UK, with people in places like Strabane, Derry and Belfast experiencing the most severe reduction in income.

Such an income reduction is going to have knock-on consequences on local spending and thus for local employment which will send our economy into a further downward spiral and further widen the imbalance between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The UK Economics Foundation recognises that the UK has the lowest spending in Europe on almost every preventable social problem including crime, mental ill health, drug use, obesity and family breakdown and as a result we, as a nation, spend a third more on addressing the consequences.

I believe that the only way to improve our economy is more investment in people and not less.

One thing David Cameron was right about is that we are all in this together.

These reckless cuts will do nothing for our economic recovery and will take money out of all of our pockets.

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