Belfast Telegraph

Overhauling the welfare system would hit Northern Ireland hardest

BY LIAM CLARKE

The UK is overhauling the welfare system to produce savings and ensure that working always pays better than being on benefit.

The result will be that welfare spending will rise more slowly than under the existing system.

A new universal credit will replace six existing benefits and an "under occupancy restriction" or bedroom tax will penalise claimants living in houses with spare bedrooms.

Northern Ireland would be the hardest hit region and Stormont has so far balked at introducing the changes. However, if we don't come into line, London will still only give us the amount payable under the new system, leaving us to make up the shortfall from cuts in other departments.

A compromise has been agreed with Westminster which would blunt some of the harshest measures, for instance existing tenants here would be protected from the bedroom tax until they could be offered a smaller house.

Implementing the deal would cost £43.7 million this year, £41.9 million next year and around £29 million for the three years after that.

The DUP are adamant that this is the best compromise that can be reached. Sinn Fein and the SDLP disagree. They refuse to back any change arguing that a better deal can be reached if all parties united to exert pressure on London.

If the deadlock continues over five years the total cost will be £1 billion plus a new computer system at up to £1.8 billion. This year alone, the cost will be £105 million.

Belfast Telegraph

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