No special help for terminally ill PIP applicants because of Stormont standoff

Nichola Mallon wants the process to be fairer and more compassionate for people with the ‘least time to spare’

SDLP MLA Nichols Mallon

People facing terminal illness will have no special help to make urgent PIP applications because of the continued limbo at Stormont.

SDLP MLA Nichoal Mallon is trying to help hundreds of people navigate the new PIP rules.

And she had given special attention to those with terminal illnesses and life limiting conditions.

She has repeated called for a review of the definition of the term ‘terminal illness”.

There has been no working government in the North of Ireland since January 2017

But her plea urging action from the Department of Communities has responded with a resounding ‘no’ blaming the Stormont impasse.

Officials urged to explain how they will protect sick and disabled people from “appalling PIP experiences”
Mrs Mallon said: “I’d written to the Department for Communities to see if, in light of the Secretary of State’s Guidance on Civil Service Decision Making, work might be able to begin on making the PIP application process fairer and more compassionate for those with a terminal illness.

Stormont protest calls for politicians to “get back to work”
“The answer in short – no.

“So those with the least time to spare, the terminally ill applying for PIP are left to wait until whenever the Stormont standoff and stalemate might end.”

Record £37.1million paid in additional Northern Ireland benefits to people who made a call

The letter sent to Nichola Mallon

The letter from the Department of Communities stated: “The statutory framework introducing PIP – including a definition of terminal illness used for the special rules – in Northern Ireland was put in place by the Westminster Government following the approach agreed by the Executive to introduce welfare Reform here and the subsequent legislative consent motion endorsed by the Assembly.

Proposal for Universal Credit claimants to get half price public transport can’t go further because there is no Minister
“In the absence of Ministers the Department is constrained in the actions it can undertake: civil servants do not have the authority to commence work on a major policy review or take legislative decisions to break parity that go beyond the current arrnagemtns as previously agreed by the Executive and Assembly.”

Universal Credit cake sparks outrage

With many thanks to: Belfast Live for the original story.

How a no-deal Brexit could affect benifits and Universal Credit claimants

If the cost of living rises under a no-deal Brexit, the real value of benefits falls

A no-deal Brexit could have wide-ranging consequences for Britain.

We already know it will have an effect on a number of aspects of life including travel, the price of goods and the availability of items – however it is worth noting that the true impact of leaving the EU without an agreement will not be known until after the departure date of 29 March 2019.

A no deal could also have an impact on the lives of people who claim benefits or Universal Credit but policy and economy think tanks have yet to analyse the link.

Here are some ways in which people on benefits could be affected:

Cost of living
If the cost of living rises as a result of a no-deal Brexit, everyone in Britain will be impacted. But those on benefits stand to feel the brunt of the increase.

The Bank of England has predicted that inflation will rise significantly in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

More people might turn to food banks if they struggle to make ends meet under Universal Credit (Photo: Getty)

In November, the Bank’s governor Mark Carney said a no deal could lead Britain’s gross domestic product – the value of goods and services – to drop by eight per cent in 2019, which could mean unemployment rises to 7.5 per cent and inflation rises to 6.5 per cent.

However, Universal Credit and all equivalent benefits are set to remain frozen in cash terms throughout 2019, with Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd suggesting the freeze is unlikely to lift until 2020.

Read more:

Life on Universal Credit: I had to sell my jewellery as scrap to free up money for food

The combination of the benefits freeze and the inflation increase “could have a devastating impact on benefit recipients”, says Dr Craig Berry, a reader in political economy at Manchester Metropolitan University.

“As the cost of living rises rapidly… the real value of benefits falls – intensifying a problem recipients have been dealing with for several years already,” he explains.

Food bank usage could increase and more people could fall into rent arrears.

Universal Credit reform
Universal Credit has been widely criticised since implementation began in 2013. It has undergone a number of changes with new reforms recently announced by Ms Rudd.

However, Dr Berry suggests that future changes, especially those that are costly, might be reconsidered in the event of a no deal.

“The dire consequences of no-deal for the public finances mean that further concessions on the design of Universal Credit will become increasingly unlikely,” he tells i.

Life on Universal Credit: I was threatened with a sanction after missing a Jobcentre meeting when my girlfriend miscarried Life on Universal Credit: ‘I spent 10 weeks under threat of sanctions for being 12 minutes late to a Jobcentre appointment’

One potentially positive aspect of a no-deal Brexit for benefits claimants could be that there is an easing of sanctions.

“A no-deal Brexit will severely disrupt the normal operations of Government, one of the few upsides may be that the Department for Work and Pensions suspends or relaxes its benefit sanctions regime, as job centre staff managing claimants are moved elsewhere within the civil service,” says Dr Berry.

Money for benefits
It is not clear whether a no-deal Brexit will have any impact on the money available for Universal Credit and benefits claimants.

The decision on the amount of money put aside for benefits lies solely with the Government. And it is ministers who decide on cuts and freezes.

The Department for Work and Pensions said: “We are preparing for all eventualities to ensure claimants continue to get the right support.”

With many thanks to: I News for the original story


Get in debt or turn down a job? Universal Credit’s ‘stark choice’

The Universal Credit system leaves too many UK claimants with children facing a stark choice between turning down jobs or getting into debt, MPs warn.

The Work and Pensions Select Committee says the way parents have to pay for childcare up front, then claim it back afterwards is a “barrier to work”.

Committee chairman Frank Field said it was “irresponsible” to put this burden on “struggling, striving parents”.

The government said childcare support is more generous under the new system.

But the committee’s report on the childcare aspect of Universal Credit is further criticism of the already much-criticised benefit.

The welfare payment, which collapsed six benefits into one monthly payment, is being phased in across the UK.

Universal Credit: Is the government’s benefit system working?

The report said: “Parents and carers’ decisions about whether and how much to work are closely tied to being able to access affordable, good quality childcare.

“The Department for Work and Pensions aspires for 200,000 more people to work under Universal Credit than under the system it replaces, and for people already in work to contribute over 100 million additional hours every year.

“Its success or failure in achieving these aims depends largely on working parents. That means that making childcare payments work is critical to the success of Universal Credit.”

But it claims the design of Universal Credit childcare support directly conflicts with the aim of making it easier for claimants to work, or to work more hours.


“Universal Credit claimants must pay for childcare up front and claim reimbursement from the department after the childcare has been provided,” the report says.

“This can leave households waiting weeks or even months to be paid back.

“Many of those households will be in precarious financial positions which Universal Credit could exacerbate: if, for example, they have fallen into debt or rent arrears while awaiting Universal Credit payments.

“Too many will face a stark choice: turn down a job offer, or get themselves into debt in order to pay for childcare.”

The system of reimbursement was adopted to cut down on fraud and error, and the government says switching to a system of direct payments to childcare providers would require changes to the benefits payment system.

The committee wants direct payments to be adopted, but in the meantime more should be done to help claimants with up-front costs, it says.

The report said: “Parents and carers’ decisions about whether and how much to work are closely tied to being able to access affordable, good quality childcare

More on this story                  Video Universal credit: Is the government’s benefit system working?

20 December 2018
Universal Credit: Will benefit changes affect you?

26 October 2018
Related Internet links
Department for Work and Pensions
Commons Work and Pensions Committee Universal Credit inquiry

Almost 2,400 people declared ‘fit to work’ were dead within TWO WEEKS


Stormont buys 40 cakes to celebrate Universal Credit

A Universal Credit cake for Hove in the South East of England, where the use of cake to mark the benefits system roll-out has also caused controversy

STORMONT civil servants have spent more than £1,000 buying 40 cakes for staff to celebrate the controversial roll-out of the new Universal Credit benefits system.

The cakes, each branded with the Universal Credit logo, were given to staff in 40 locations to mark the end of the new system’s introduction in Northern Ireland.

Universal Credit, which rolls six benefits into one single payment, has been introduced gradually across the north and Britain.

But there have been calls for its suspension amid concerns that delays in people receiving their first payment are pushing some claimants into rent arrears and homelessness.

There are also concerns that thousands are worse off under the new scheme because of cuts to disability premiums and single-parent allowances.

Earlier this year, the director general of Universal Credit faced criticism for posting images on Twitter of cakes used in various parts of Britain to mark the system’s roll-out.

And now it’s emerged Stormont’s Department for Communities (DfC) has similarly treated staff in Northern Ireland.

The roll-out of Universal Credit in Northern Ireland began last year and finished earlier this month.

Cakes were provided across departmental branches in the north at the same time to mark the end of this introduction phase.

SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon described the move as “tasteless and insensitive”.

The North Belfast MLA said: “It is true front line staff are working hard and that should be recognised. It is also true however that Universal Credit, and the minimum five-week wait for your first payment, is causing financial hardship especially in North Belfast, Antrim and Ballymena where it is being rolled out in the mouth of Christmas.

“To brand cakes with the Universal Credit logo is tasteless and insensitive. It shows a careless disregard for the impact it is having on those families forced into debt and in through the doors of food banks.”

Defending the purchase of cakes, a DfC spokeswoman said in a statement: “The process of rolling out Universal Credit in Northern Ireland began in September 2017 and completed on December 5 2018.

“This was a significant and challenging implementation effort for the department, involving the recruitment and training of almost 2,000 staff across 40 locations throughout the province.

“To mark the completion of this task, a total of £1,125 was spent to purchase 40 cakes which were shared amongst 2,000 staff at team building events across Northern Ireland.

“The cakes were provided to mark the end of the introduction of Universal Credit, recognising the commitment and hard work of staff in delivering the new service to customers across Northern Ireland.”

With many thanks to: The Irish News for the original story.

Introducing “Westminister” (The Sinn Féin PuP)

Why am I such a critic on Sinn Fein, well are they not meant to be the voice of Republicans isn’t that why they were voted into power all those years ago.? After all if you dare speak out against SF, you get a barrage of abuse from their supporters, well I am entitled to my own options just like they are. The only difference is I never sported rose tainted glasses and have the backbone to be upfront and very vocal, even if I’m hated for doing so. So all I ask is what is their definition on Equality, Integrity and respect for all because as I see it they talk the talk but defiantly don’t walk the walk.

Sinn Féin assured us they will fight for the most vulnerable in Society….it is a contradiction. Meanwhile Sinn Féin criticise SDLP (the “Stoop Down Low Party”) for attending the House of Commons. But maybe SF is the “Stoop Further” Party.

It is all a bit of a farce. SF was accepting “welfare” cuts before doing a U-turn, they eventually caved in. Not that their allies in DUP are much more principled. They are content on doing the “hokey cokey” in Stormount.

Yet it would be only half the story to say that Sinn Féin sold out on “welfare” and Legacy matters and casually decided to overlook the Legacy issues and the victims of the Troubles.

Thats the real shame here.

In 1998 nationalists overwhelmingly and unionists narrowly voted for the Good Friday Agreement. We voted on the basis that the victims would not be forgotten. They received vague assurances and the word “Justice” was used a lot.

The promises got more vague. And the number of people who have actual first hand memories of the years 1969 to 1998 decreases with each passing year.

It is now crystal clear that their issues will not be dealt with. They have been quietly told to “get over it” and “its time to move on”

Will Sinn Féin and DUP lose votes? In any normal world, they would deserve to lose votes. They have let people down.

Next step? Well….Sinn Féin bought this pup. Now they have to feed it and take wee “Westminster” walkies in West Belfast, Derry, Newry and Ardoyne.

“Westminster” looks a cute wee puppy now. But he has some Rottweiler in him. Maybe he will be biting Sinn Féin on the arse before he is much older.

Do you know whether the passing of the buck to Westminster of Welfare, If the power was handed back permanently – that makes it significantly worse than just a one off.

For the purposes of this discussion and clarity I would make a distinction between political issues and constitutional issues on the following basis. A constitutional issue being one that relates to the relationship between ‘Britain’ and the North Of Ireland’ and a political issue being one that relates to the ‘Government’ (Stormount) within the North of Ireland.

The first question is have (constitutional) powers been handed back to Westminster permanently- unless we know this we can judge the extent to which SF as a republican party has given up control, Irish people need their own affairs to be transparent concerning very important issues, legacy being one.

In order to judge what SF have done – we need to confirm that they have actually signed over to the British.

Has to be within a framework and I am using the term “constitutional” very loosely. There is no strategy here….its just the latest in a long line of quick fix solutions a sell out.

You are clutching at straws.DUP will share power with anyone. So will SF …they are mirror images in deception. Simply put SF cant be a protest party AND a party of Government. And thats a lesson for all. Faced with a decision, they handed power back to Wrstminster rather than make the decision themselves. They protested about a European involvement in Irish economy but here we have the precedent. If decisions are awkward they would have Westminster and Brussels make them. Worse republicans than Fianna Fáil.

Perhaps you might like to clarify the terms (permanent or temporary) that Welfare powers have been agreed to be passed from Ireland to Britain by SF. Until that is clear any judgement on SF’s performance should be reserved.

We are not talking about ONE UTurn …we are talking about TWO UTurns.
You will also note that the Fresh Start (sic) ignores the Victims ….an arrangement that suits both Sinn Féin and their British allies. The victims are the subject of ongoing negotiations. It seems wrong to hold up the fresh start deal until all the victim issues are dealt with as many of the victim issues are deep seated.

The collective focus of all protest at austerity measures should properly be directed at the Tory government, not Sinn Fein; I think that message will resonate with sf voters. The fact is SF have a say too in the austerity measures and backed down but they have also worked alongside the Conservative Government for eight years. Sf supporters can point fingers but it still doesn’t take away the fact the party they backed went along with the Conservatives decision making why moan about the Conservatives now.

Whatever way it is dressed up SF passed powers back from Ireland to Britain – anyone who doesn’t think that is a BAD move shouldn’t think of themselves as a Republican. There are mitigating factors – which take some of the blame of SF – but SF correctly have to take a percentage of that blame – and that percentage may be argued over,

But the “nothing to do with us it was all the Tories fault” – will not wash except with those who have surrendered their political judgement to party loyalty.

A central tenet of SF position is that British rule in Ireland is the cause of the problems so the position that says that Tory austerity is the main problem is consonant, resonant, and consistent with that and will resonate with SF voters.

I wouldnt be too sure about that.
It wont resonate with non-SF voters in the North and it will certainly have an adverse effect on their core vote in north.
The whole strategy of SF in south….is to attract people who are prepared to give SF a chance.
FF can justifiably saying that SF complain when the Europeans took over…and SF hand power to Westminster.
Labour can say that they were prepared to take difficult decisions and SF crucify them for it. And SF are unfit for Government as they dont do difficult decisions.
And the various lefty independents can claim to be more consistent opponents of Austerity than SF.

The bottom line is that this is a very bad commitment promise for Sinn Féin and they thoroughly know it.
Sinn Féin have made a massive mistake….and that mistake is compounded by the fact that they actually backed down…broke commitments…sold out the most vulnerable and victims so that they could stay in power.
If you think SF wont lose votes for treachery….you could well be right.
If you think they will gain any votes North or South, you are certainly wrong.
If you think they DESERVE credit…you are just kidding yourself.

With many thanks to: Marianne Collins – Friends of Relatives of Justice in Ireland.


 Research highlights ‘difficult sacrifices‘ people are making !

MORE than 70,000 people in the North of Ireland – that’s one in 20 – don’t have enough money each week to cover basic essentials such as mortgage/rent, food and electricity/heating. Three quarters of households (525,000) also say they  have switched off their heatibenefits  me point to save fuel, while the number of families saving on a regular basis is next to nothing.


The shocking figures, contained in the latest Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) Northern Ireland Household Income Tracker, underline the region’s further plunge into poverty authors say they are particularly concerned about the introduction next year of the Universal Credit system in the North of Ireland, claiming households in the North are “unprepared and in the dark” on how it will impact them. Universal Credit was introduced this month in selected areas in Britain, replacing six types of benefits with a simpler, single monthly payment if a person is out of work or on a low income. It is part of the British government‘s declared commitment to ensure people are always better of in work than on benifits, and will be rolled out in the North of Ireland from April 2014. “Our research highlights the everyday struggles people in the North of Ireland are faced with in managing their households and the difficult sacrifices that they have had to make,” ILCU director Rosemary O’Doherty says. “Reports of the impact of Universal Credit in other parts of the UK are of great concern, because there seems to be a lack of awareness and understanding by those who stand to be most affected by its introduction. “Significant changes, such as the transition from a fortnightly to a monthly payment, and the merging of all payments into one single lump sum, could have a huge negative impact to those families already struggling to manage their finances.”

“Its authors say they are particularly concerned about the introduction next year of the Universal Credit system in the North of Ireland, claiming households in the North are ‘unprepared and in the dark’ on how it will impact them”.

The ILCU’s latest study said 47 per cent of people in the North of Ireland are unaware of the planned changes to the benefits system. It said more than half of households receiving benifits at present have little or nothing left at the end of each month after paying essential bills, and found that 71,500 people can’t even meet the most basic of weekly household commitments. The report revealed that almost 659,000 people had to sacrifice other household spending to cover costs of heating, while half the region is at present in fuel poverty and 63,000 households reported spending more than half of their income heating their home. Among the other findings in the ILCU tracker, 816,000 adults indicated that they, or someone within their household, were receiving some type of benifit, jobseeker’s allowance, tax credits or income support. And almost half in receipt of benifits were unaware of the planned changes to the system, which sees one monthly payment for the household. Separate indices published in recent weeks by both government and the private sector in the North of Ireland have revealed that living standards and wages in the North are well below the average in Britain. For example, UK medium household income is £419 a week before housing costs and £359 after housing costs, compared with £379 and £338 on the equivalent measures in the North of Ireland. Just last week a study from Asda showed that spending power continues to diminish in the North, with families now £7 a week wrose off than this time last year after having paid taxes and bought essential items such as groceries, electricity, gas, fuel and met mortgage or rent payments.

With many thanks to : Gary McDonald (Business Editor), Irish News.

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