Social Development Minister, Nelson McCausland, today published for consultation, a draft Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) on the proposals for Welfare Reform in Northern Ireland.
Urging interested parties to put forward their views on the draft EQIA, Minister McCausland said: “I am fully aware of the vital support our welfare system provides for people across Northern Ireland, but I also recognise that it is a complex and flawed system that needs to be simplified and, most importantly, made sustainable for future generations.”
Welfare Reform Bill proposals include changes to the current policy for Housing Benefit, income based, Employment and Support Allowance and Job Seeker’s Allowance, Disability Living Allowance, the Social Fund and Child Maintenance provisions. A new benefit entitled Universal Credit will also be introduced as part of the Welfare Reform Bill proposals which will replace all existing working age benefits and tax credits.
It is envisaged that these measures will simplify the current benefit system, improve work incentives, reduce administration costs and help reduce fraud.
Minister McCausland said: “The Welfare State at its inception was designed as a safety net for those who genuinely need help; it also needs to support citizens, where possible, to once again become economically active. That is why the Welfare Reform agenda is being taken forward, both here in Northern Ireland and in Westminster.
“We all recognise that the Welfare State is a good thing – it offers supports to the most vulnerable people in our society when they need it most. We need to ensure that this valuable resource remains sustainable for future generations.”
Minister McCausland added: “My Department is working on implementing a new welfare system where individuals will be incentivised to join the labour market. This is imperative; supporting people back to work is not only good for society, but also good for a person’s mental well-being, discipline and social responsibility.
“I would call on all those with an interest in the proposals for Welfare Reform to look closely at the draft Equality Impact Assessment which has been published today and to make their views known as this is the time to raise any issues and concerns from a Northern Ireland perspective.”
The draft EQIA consultation period will run from 5 September 2011 until 30 November 2011. Copies of the draft EQIA consultation document can be obtained from: Rosemary Hughes, Social Security Policy and Legislation Division, Department for Social Development, Level 1, James House, 2 – 4 Cromac Avenue, Gasworks Business Park, Ormeau Road, Belfast BT7 2JA.
Alternatively telephone 028 9081 9103, textphone 028 9081 9140, fax 028 9081 9139 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The document can also be accessed at: www.dsdni.gov.uk/consultations