Belfast Telegraph

Welfare Bill will help the less well-off

By Mark Brotherston

The debate around welfare reform has been distorted by irresponsible politicians and Left-wing commentators, motivated by self-interest, or political agendas, and they're doing a grave disservice to many of the most vulnerable and least well-off in Northern Ireland.

People are already being hit by unnecessary service cuts, condemned to dependency on benefits, or are actually getting less money than they'd otherwise be due, if the Welfare Bill were passed.

MLAs from Sinn Fein, the SDLP and the Green Party aren't talking about the fact that two-thirds of benefits claimants will be better off, or no worse off, if Universal Credit is implemented here.

In fact, they're preventing 102,000 households from receiving, on average, £37 per week more.

Welfare reform has never been about cuts and the truth is it will actually benefit Northern Ireland immensely.

The bill is based on three very important principles: helping the most vulnerable in our society, delivering fairness for taxpayers and getting people into work.

There's nothing compassionate about parking families on benefits, with few aspirations and little chance of escape.

The Welfare Bill ensures that help is targeted to the people who need it most. It guarantees a fairer deal for taxpayers by ensuring that benefits are capped at a generous total of £26,000 per year.

Perhaps most importantly, Universal Credit gives people an incentive to get into work, because it makes sure entering employment doesn't mean benefits are suddenly cut altogether.

These are commonsense measures, which are only controversial when political debate enters the realms of fantasy.

At Stormont, the petition of concern, a mechanism devised to stop sectarianism, has been abused so that parties can veto anything they like.

The debate around welfare reform has demonstrated that the people of Northern Ireland are being let down by politicians, as well as the expensive industry of quangos, union bosses and pressure groups surrounding them, who have lost touch with reality.

  • Mark Brotherston is NI Conservatives' representative in North Down

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