Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Paterson must recognise our unique welfare needs

Owen Paterson's decision to open up a conversation on welfare reforms is welcome - particularly since he has said that special arrangements could be put in place to meet our local needs.

He mentions rates and our pattern of housing occupancy and he needs to be pushed further as he continues to speak on the issue.

The fact is that any reduction in gross welfare spending will not only hurt individual claimants, but will suck money out of the economy and return it to the Treasury.

Claimants tend to spend their allowances in the local shops, not on the internet and foreign holidays, so it has particular implications for the survival of our town centres.

The push to move claimants out of single occupancy accommodation and into multiple occupancy has particular implications here because of our housing stock.

The ceiling on maximum benefits at £26,000 sounds reasonable and Mr Paterson strongly defends it.

But it doesn't, so far, make allowance for larger family sizes and the presence of disabled children or adults.

We have marginally lower unemployment rates than the UK average, but the private sector - principally construction - has contracted and the public sector is facing cuts.

Besides, the number of economically inactive people (including students, the retired and the disabled), is high compared with Britain, as are our fuel costs.

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