Bid to break deadlock on welfare reform before block grant cash is cut

Nelson McCausland
Nelson McCausland

A meeting is to be held today in an apparent bid to break the deadlock over changes to the welfare system – just weeks before Westminster starts cutting the cash it gives the Province.

The Treasury will begin reducing the “block grant” Northern Ireland receives by the end of January if the welfare changes continue to be blocked.

The cut is believed to amount to £5m a month, and although it had been claimed elsewhere that this was already in force, the News Letter has been told it will only kick in at the end of the month, if and when the Treasury deems there to have been “no progress”.

The changes were brought forward in the Welfare Reform Bill tabled by Nelson McCausland, Department for Social Development (DSD) minister.

The DSD said he was “frustrated” by the lack of progress on the bill (which has split MLAs), but remained committed to making it happen.

The DSD added: “To enable the bill to proceed as quickly as possible an Executive sub-committee meeting is scheduled.”

This will take place today.

The changes in the bill would include introducing a new “universal credit” which would replace elements of the existing Jobseekers’ Allowance, Housing Benefit, Income Support and more.