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Published on 23 June 2010 09:00 AM

By Fiona Veitch 22/06/2010 - 16:05

An expert panel, representative of the voluntary and community sector, gathered this afternoon to comment on the implications of the Budget on the sector in Northern Ireland.

Seamus McAleavey, NICVA, who chaired the meeting stated:

“This is a very tough budget and the full extent of its outcome will not become obvious until next year. The spending cuts in particular could see Northern Ireland lose £1 billion or more over four years. That will mean public services will be cut and Northern Ireland will lose a substantial number of jobs.”

In general the NICVA panel thought:

  • The budget is less progressive than the chancellor asserts
  • People on the  lowest incomes are the hardest hit, particularly women
  • VAT up to 20%  will hurt the poor most
  • The sting in the tail will be the loss of many services with the 25% reduction in Public Expenditure over 4 years.

Les Allamby, Law Centre NI, commented:
“While the devil will be in the detail, my initial reaction is that people on working age benefits have shouldered an unfair burden.  It is particularly difficult to see why expectant mothers have been targeted so strongly with the Sure Start. Maternity Grant being confined to one child, the baby element of Child Tax Credit being abolished along with the Health in Pregnancy Grant.  Working age families on benefit will almost certainly see any gains in Child Tax Credit wiped out with the increase in VAT and cuts in other benefits.  In Northern Ireland the changes to Disability Living Allowance will have a disproportionate impact as we have a much higher rate of disability and reliance on this benefit than in Britain”.

Jennie Hammond, Employers for Childcare, said:
“Employers for Childcare is a campaigning charity whose ethos is ‘to make it easier for parents with dependent children to get into work and to stay in work.  We appreciate that difficult decisions had to be made today however we are concerned that some of these decisions are to the detriment of working families. The announcement of a rise in Child Tax Credit cuts for families with household incomes of over £40,000, removal of the Baby element of Child Tax Credit and the shortening of the backdating period.  The abolition of the universal ‘Health in Pregnancy’ grant and the limitations being introduced to the Sure Start Maternity Grant will also impact upon families. 
"Mr Osborne has stated that he wants this budget to reward the efforts of those who want to work. In order for this to happen, the government will need to address childcare as an economic and a labour market issue.”

Andrew Dougal, Chest, Heart and Stroke stated:
“The Chancellor missed a great opportunity to increase revenue substantially by 5% above inflation increase on tobacco tax.  People will not respond to incremental changes in nicotine tax, particularly when an addictive substance like nicotine is involved. 
"Tobacco costs society almost £14 billion a year but brings in only £10 billion in taxes to the Exchequer.  The Chancellor should have announced that during this parliament he would increase tobacco each year so that it would be cost-neutral by 2015.  This would mean an increase of £1.29 per pack, bringing the price to £7.42 per pack by 2015.  If announced now, this would have acted as a powerful incentive for smokers to quit.  7 out of 10 smokers would clearly love to quit the habit.”

Lynn Carvill, WRDA, commented:
“It would appear that women and families have been a clear target in this budget and proposed spending cuts.
" ‘Giving birth’ will be penalised with the abolition of the Health in Pregnancy grant and the baby element of the Child Tax Credit system.  This is a huge financial blow to expectant and new mothers.
"Reduction in benefits will inevitably have a greater impact on women who are more likely to rely on social security and are more at risk of poverty throughout their lives.”

Bob Stronge, Advice NI, said:
“Advice NI said today’s budget announcements on welfare reforms will have a harsh impact on households in Northern Ireland.  We have a higher reliance on welfare benefits in NI and the cuts announced to tax credits, child benefit and housing benefits will be disproportionate here. The rise in VAT will further add to this burden.  We will also see huge cuts across government spending which will lead to reduced public services across the board. It’s hard to see how the government’s commitment to move people from welfare to work can be achieved.”

Elaine Campbell from Age NI, commented:
“The restoration of the link to earnings for the basic state pension is welcome.  However, the state pension remains too low.  Furthermore, the increase in VAT to 20% will disproportionately impact upon those already in poverty.  We know that the rate of poverty among pensioners is higher than anywhere else in the UK.  People in poverty will face even harder times.  We agree this budget is tough, but penalising the poor is not fair.  Asking people to work until 66 while maintaining the default retirement age may leave people vulnerable.  It will allow employers to sack older workers, who will be unable to claim their pensions.”

Marie Cavanagh from Gingerbread, stated:
“Gingerbread - the organisation working with the one parent families in Northern Ireland - considers today’s budget to be an attack on these families.  We believe that the reductions in Tax Credits, the freeze on Child Benefit and the increase on VAT will disproportionately impact on one parent families who rely on benefits or are on low paid employment. 
"The long term implication of this budget will be that those who are least well off in society will be most heavily penalised in trying to address the budget deficit.”

Declan Allison, Friends of the Earth, commented:
“This budget was a missed opportunity.  The Chancellor should have announced support for the Green New Deal.  Instead we got a re-run of the Government’s pledge to create a Green Investment Bank but with no details.  The Green Investment Bank should have at least £2 billion in its first year, focussed on renewables and energy efficiency. This would create thousands of jobs, help to cut fuel bills, and reduce carbon emissions – a win, win, win situation.”

Dermot McCluskey from Disability Action, said:
“Disability Action’s main concern on the initial announcement is the assessment of people with disabilities in relation to Disability Living Allowance. There is not enough detail at present and we will be closely monitoring the situation. The raising of the threshold for tax credits is also a concern. The impact on families with children with disabilities could be disproportionate and we need to investigate this further.
The overall budget focuses significantly on spending cuts as opposed to tax increases and our concern is that the trickle down effect of this approach through to Northern Ireland will be significant.”

For more information or comment, please contact Caroline Magee, Information and Communication Manager, on 028 9087 7777 / 07721746805 or email

For more information: Call Age NI Advice: 0808 808 7575