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Think before you rubber-stamp the reforms, Assembly urged

By Noel McAdam

A second major report warns the Executive against attempting to fast-track welfare reforms through the Assembly.

The report suggests Stormont ministers begin discussions with the Government on consulting about the development of welfare policy in future — including the prospect for variations.

Authors Barry Fitzpatrick and Professor Noreen Burrows, who were examining the ‘parity principle’ — that benefits in Northern Ireland are in line with the rest of the UK — also say that there are arguments for a delay in implementing the reforms in Northern Ireland “until their implications are more fully understood”.

Children’s Commissioner Patricia Lewsley-Mooney said: “There is a need for flexibility in adapting the ‘reforms’ to protect children and their families.”

The main impact assessment report commented: “The Assembly will have to consider whether it thinks that those on benefits should be forced to limit their family size or whether there are ways of helping such families to meet the needs of their children outside of Universal Credit.”

Ms Lewsley-Mooney said: “The Northern Ireland Executive must make sure that the particular circumstances here are addressed.

“For example, that housing benefit is sufficient to ensure that families do not have to spend on rent — money which is supposed to provide food, heat (etc).”

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