Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Welfare reform contract is all about fairness

The Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, is right to defend the principles behind the Government's Welfare Reform Bill.

The purpose of this legislation is not to cut spending. The Bill will cost more in the short term and it is at the centre of efforts to combat benefit dependency and help the jobless into work.

The central principle of the Government's welfare contract is a pledge to make work pay.

It is right that those who are trying to do the right thing should get the support they deserve. That means no steep cut-off in benefits for people who take steps to find work or stay in employment.

In addition, the new system will protect the most vulnerable. Those who are too sick, or too disabled, to work will quite rightly receive help from the state.

There will, in addition, be renewed efforts to ensure that those who can work, or who are currently obtaining more benefits than they ought, receive only what they should to be entitled to. That is right and proper and, critically, it is a matter of fairness.

Fairness is the thread which runs through the Welfare Bill and the Government's aim is to deliver a fairer welfare system - for the taxpayers, who pay for benefits, and for those who have fallen on hard times and need them.

There is nothing moral about allowing people to become trapped in benefits dependency and joblessness without taking action.

The Government's new welfare contract will address these problems. It's imperative that Northern Ireland adopts a similar approach.

STEPHEN McILWRATH

Northern Ireland Conservatives

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