Tribunal service saved by additional council funding

SDLP Councillor Tim Attwood

SDLP Councillor Tim Attwood

An under threat service which helps vulnerable people appeal benefits decisions has been saved thanks to a late rally for funding.

Belfast Citywide Tribunal Service faced closure after existing funding from Belfast City Council via the Department of Communities ran out on December 31.

However Belfast City Council has unanimously agreed to provide urgent funding of £54,000 to the organisation until March 31, 2017.

DUP Councillor John Hussey, Chair of the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee, said: “There was a unanimous desire by all members to extend the current funding arrangement, in light of the invaluable work which the Service carries out across the city.”

The number of people appealing benefits decisions expected to increase dramatically over the next three years, jumping from 16,000 a year to 32,373 in 2017/2018 to 41,692 in 2018/2019.

SDLP Councillor Tim Attwood said: “I am delighted that after intensive lobbying by myself and others in Belfast City Council we have secured funding to maintain the service which provides vital representation for vulnerable people at the appeals service. It has already proven itself over the last two years with a 65% success rate for individuals attending the appeal service and securing an additional £9.6 million in benefits for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.

“This is 1,000% return for the council investment.”