What Now For Social Security? Eileen Evason explains the working of the welfare reform Mitigations Group

What Now For Social Security? This was the question asked in a seminar run by Law Centre NI after this morning’s AGM. You can listen back to the four presentations.

Alison Garnham of Child Poverty Action Group delivered the keynote address, looking back at the developments that led to the introduction of the Universal Credit and the UK-wide impact of government policies. Charts showed the massive increase in sanctions and foodbanks as out of work benefits were being cut. She also looked at some of the upcoming challenges.

Eileen Evason is a very familiar voice from Radio Ulster’s On Your Behalf. The professor chairs the Joint Standards Committee and the welfare reform Mitigations Group. (Alex Kane’s recent profile of Eileen is worth a read.) She spoke about the Northern Ireland situation, the measures her panel agreed and have now passed to the civil service to be implemented. Disabled people and families in Northern Ireland will have transition protections not available to people across Great Britain. Universal Credit in NI will support fortnightly payments and will compensate low income families.

Towards the end of she was critical of media coverage around the underspend in the panel’s proposals, explaining the in-year pots of money and public finance rules they were bound by, and the impossibility of compensating people for the loss of benefits until they’ve actually been lost. (Appropriately, the underspend has been earmarked for the health budget.)

Les Allamby is chief commissioner at the NI Human Rights Commission (and former Law Centre NI director) spoke briefly about the role of human rights arguments in the field of social security before commenting on the work of Eileen’s panel (mostly positive, though highlighted some possible gaps), and finished with observations in Universal Credit.

Finally Dr Gráinne McKeever – Reader in Law at Ulster University and the NI member of the Social Security Advisory Committee) spoke about the scrutinising of social security developments. SSAC can’t change policy, but can challenge government with wider evidence and analyse the cumulative effect of multiple welfare regulations. With the NI Mitigations Group standing down after the delivery of their report earlier in January, the SSAC will have an important role.

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  • murdockp

    The saddest part in all of this is the poor folk who have to do without due to the fraud committed by others.

    We keep being told that fraud is only a small part of the problem, however I see with my own eyes people abusing the system everywhere from housing through to DLA cars.

    The abuse of the DLA / Motability car scheme is now so widespread it will soon have a very negative affect on the people who really are reliant on the support such a scheme gives as the coffers run dry.

    As I see it there comes a point that SF / DUP have to support welfare fraud enforcement and at present there is no appetite to do so and given an election later this year, it ain’t going to happen anytime soon.

  • Graham Parsons

    These cuts have been introduced for ideological reasons not because of fraud.

  • Dan

    Quite correct. Look at any Tesco car park and you’ll see the scammers skipping happily from their new cars without a hat of shame.

  • murdockp

    These cuts have been introduced because the government is running a deficit.

  • Disdain

    These cuts have been introduced for ideological reasons. The UK deficit is entirely sustainable. National budgeting and debt is not parallel, in any way, to a household budget.

  • Surveyor

    Not so much of a deficit that they can strike cosy tax deals with the likes of Google.

  • Old Mortality

    ‘National budgeting and debt is not parallel, in any way, to a household budget.’
    Insofar as persistent national deficits will ultimately lead to a day of reckoning but no such prospect for households in our unreformed welfare system.

  • whatif1984true

    Do you remember ”

    From the Sinn Fein Dossier of Facts on the welfasre agreement it brokered with the DUP.
    “The civil penalty for people who deliberately submit false information
    when making a claim for social security benefits is not introduced”

    Is that still the case?

  • Disdain

    Your comment is almost completely inscrutable.

  • Old Mortality

    To you perhaps.
    It is simply a fact that the IMF et al will come and tell a national government to cut its spending when it has run out of credit.
    If only DSS inspectors had the power to do the same.
    Incidentally, the most sinister comments during that pompously entitled ‘seminar’ were from Les Allanby who is intent on making dependency culture a human right, beyond the power of democratically elected governments to control.

  • Pasty2012

    Alan, one of the questions not being asked so much or answered at all is “Where are all the Health Care Professionals coming from to carry out the assessments” ? – Do we not have a problem recruiting these workers and staffing the Hospitals and Care Homes ? yet here is Government electing to appoint Health Care Workers who will then assess, question and ultimately declare the Consultants reports as rubbish in order to disallow benefit payments. Consultants and Doctors who would have seen the patients (and claimants) on a number of occasions if not frequently, whilst the Health Care Worker carrying out the benefit assessment will declare their reports as wrong after seeing the patient/claimant for 15 or maybe 20 minutes tops.
    How many disabled people have been disallowed after consultancy reports have been provided stating their condition is severe and is those consultants reports are wrong then Why are they allowed to continue to work as consultants ?