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Welfare reform could be a force for good

I was disappointed to receive a note from the usually excellent NICVA advertising a forthcoming event on welfare reform by highlighting the "potentially negative consequences" for people in Northern Ireland.

Change to the system is indeed cause of great and legitimate concern for many people. Nevertheless, the notion that the consequences will be entirely or even primarily "potentially negative" must be instantly challenged.

The current system traps people in poverty, restricts their choices, and treats them as if they have nothing to offer. If properly implemented, the reforms will end extortionate rents charged by landlords paid for by the taxpayer; they will ensure those who choose to work are supported and rewarded for so doing; and they will also give assurance that benefits are only paid to those in need of them. Which of these is "potentially negative"?

Northern Ireland has comparatively high rates of child poverty and economic inactivity, but we forget that half of poor children grow up in working families and that work is the single most important pathway out of poverty.

Therefore reforms which reduce the squeeze on working families and support more people into work will particularly benefit Northern Ireland.

Ian James Parsley


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