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Goretti Horgan is deputy director of the Institute for Research in Social Sciences at Ulster University

Goretti Horgan is deputy director of the Institute for Research in Social Sciences at Ulster University

Goretti Horgan is deputy director of the Institute for Research in Social Sciences at Ulster University

As details emerge of the Welfare Reform Bill, it is clear that we are getting more of the system in place across the water than headlines might have suggested and that some of the most vulnerable claimants will lose income.

First, the good news is that the Discretionary Support Scheme, which is to replace the Social Fund system of community care grants and budgeting loans, will be available to low-income working families; at present, it is only available to benefit claimants.

However, the bedroom tax is being introduced; the fact that current tenants will be protected by a top-up to their Housing Benefit is welcome, but no one knows how long this protection will last. Similarly, the benefit cap is also being introduced though, again, there will be protection for a while.

A report for the Commission for Victims and Survivors found that four out of 10 people in the region have suffered post traumatic stress disorder because of the conflict. PTSD exacerbates all forms of mental ill-health. For victims and survivors who are trying to manage poverty on a day-to-day basis, such daily stress exacerbates both their PTSD and other illnesses.

Many of those victims of the conflict, now struggling with mental illness, are likely to lose up to £5,000 a year as a result of welfare reform. This is because the Personal Independence Payment, which is to replace Disability Living Allowance, is designed to cut by one-fifth the numbers who receive this benefit. And Westminster has made it clear that those receiving DLA for reasons of mental ill-health are those most likely to be cut.

There is to be a top-up for those losing out under PIP also. But it is still unclear how the system of "top-ups" will work. If top-ups are not automatic but have to be applied for, all the evidence tells us they will be an additional hoop which the most vulnerable people may not be able to jump through.

There are also real concerns about how the top-ups are to be administered at a time when tens of thousands of public sector jobs are being cut.

Goretti Horgan is deputy director of the Institute for Research in Social Sciences at Ulster University

Belfast Telegraph