Follow The Money: New Welfare Money a “sleight of hand”?

This story from John Manley in the Irish News caught my eye today, who writes about an assembly question submitted by the Green party MLA, Steven Agnew on where the new money to mitigate welfare reductions is coming from.

In the report Manley says

The deal agreed between the British and Irish governments and Stormont’s two biggest parties includes welfare mitigation measures of up to £90m a year.

However, an answer to an assembly question tabled by Mr Agnew shows that the SSA’s discretionary fund already pays out more than £80m a year.

The latest Stormont deal – entitled ‘A Fresh Start’ – states that the discretionary fund is incorporated into the bespoke benefits top-up measures for the north.

The North Down MLA argues;

The welfare reform proposals are nothing but a sleight of hand.

The discretionary fund for welfare pays for community care grants, budgeting loans and crisis loans – are these payments to be sacrificed to in order to top-up welfare payments?

It will be interesting to see how the Evason working group, who are tasked to come up with measures to fund welfare top-ups, plan to fill the gap in the agreement.

Full story is in today’s Irish News.

David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs