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RHI Heating mess has more victims than it seems

It seems that we are so wound up with all the issues regarding RHI and what seems to be the start of the collapse of the Assembly that we are forgetting what the impact of the incompetence of our ministerial departments (in what appears to be wilfully squandering hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers', money) is having on institutions and groups that rely on government and local funding to finance their operations.

An example of this is the Belfast-wide Tribunal Service, which provides a free service to people from all walks of life and sides of the community who wish to appeal Social Security Agency decisions on benefits, including employment support allowance, disability living allowance, personal independent payment and universal credit.

This service provides assistance throughout the process and represents people in appeal and tribunal settings. It provides an invaluable service and has the support of the Law Society, (NI) and has been reviewed by Deloitte, which praised it for the services provided and for how effective it was.

However, because of issues with funding within the Executive and, subsequently, local authorities, there is no longer money available, and the staff involved received probably the worst present this year in the form of notification of redundancy.

The current position is that the employees finish for the Christmas holidays today, but, as far as they presently know, they will not be returning to work again in the new year.

I have no doubt there are other groups in similar positions, but I have been helped in the past by the service and know that it has an ever-growing list of clients who need or want to avail of the advice and experience it provides.

But the staff have had to tell all these people that, regardless of whether their case is currently being pursued or they are waiting to avail of the service, they will have to start over with someone new. But nobody knows who, except that they will now need to contact their local MP for help.

Not the most comforting thought considering the mess our wee country is currently in.

The sad thing is that the knock-on effect of the limited number of job losses is the probably hundreds of people the service would have been helping being left in the lurch. And it isn't even making the news.

I am writing in the hope that someone will highlight this issue with the unsuspecting person on the street and raise awareness.


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