Evason’s timebound benefit tapering means losses kick in after the Assembly election …

Nothing demonstrates the zero gravity of NI politics more than the nationalist reaction to the Evason report. The SDLP who fought a rearguard action on welfare cuts welcomed it even though it contains for the first time, time bound benefits.

They reason that she has implemented some of the measures they proposed but were blocked by joint Sinn Fein and DUP action.

Sinn Fein on the other hand have said nothing, except to put out this presser (under the bylines of both Ray McCartney and Alex Maskey) attacking Alex Attwood for supporting Evason but not supporting the SF/DUP budget.

Newton Emerson rather pointedly notes that these proposals break Sinn Fein’s promise (made after disowning the Stormont House Agreement) that no one would lose out as a result of any proposals it would put its name to.

…proposes phasing the impact of reforms in for most of those affected by offering them a year of supplementary payments, at a cost to Stormont over the next four years of £500m.

The main beneficiaries will be carers, people with health problems and low-income families.

But however this is dressed up and whatever it is called, these claimants face a drop in their benefits after a fixed period even if there is no change in their circumstances, which in practice is a time limit.

The professor had to deal with constraints artificially imposed upon her by OFMdFM’s long budgetary drift. But introducing the principle of time limited benefits allows Sinn Fein to burn these claimants only after it safely negotiates the next Assembly election in May rather than before.

As Emerson also points out the British system in all practical terms hasn’t use deadlines in Welfare legislation. When one benefit runs out there is generally another that kicks in.

It may not be fair to characterise this as Welfare to Work , but the novel principle of timebound benefit tapering has been introduced in sleepy post conflict Northern Ireland. It’s a politically weird outcome to this long round of stop/start negotiations.

As Newton asks at the end of his column: “Does anyone have the nerve to confront what that implies?” Well for now, no. And the zero gravity abides.


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  • Concubhar O Liathain

    Wasn’t there £585m set aside originally for the package – now it’s considerably less, £501m – where did that £84m go? And why is no one worried?

  • kensei

    Can someone explain the difference between:

    Everyone has a national insurance account that entitles you to a range of contributions-based benefits, which last for six or 12 months before you have to fall back on an income-based safety net.


    Lose your job in most European countries and you will receive a proportion of your salary, which then slides or drops after a fixed period to a much lower basic rate.

    Are the contribution and income based benefits exactly equivalent in the UK? There is no loss in moving between them?

  • mickfealty

    Zero gravity Con…

  • Disdain

    Is the £501m the total from the spreadsheet at the back?

    Because that spreadsheet doesn’t include the advice project, some credit union stuff, and other non-direct-benefit-payment projects.

    I doubt they make up the other £84 million, but possibly . . .

  • Reader

    Concubhar O Liathain: And why is no one worried?
    The money runs out after the election. Who speaks for the people who are affected after the election?

  • Granni Trixie

    Although it’s only fair to recognise the difficulties Eileen Evason faced I am not sure if the precident of a hierarchy of benefit recipients is the way to go. I am referring to the proposal to allocate extra points for claimants who are mentally or physically disabled because of the troubles.
    Whilst I can see a case for ‘normalising’ benefits for victims/survivors is this not more piecemeal solutions instead of a comprehensive plan for dealing with the past. Most of all it conflates the problem of mitigating welfare reforms/cuts and schemes which address victims/survivors issues. The proposal may be a practical response but it masks necessities such as acknowledgement. What a mess.

  • mickfealty

    Don’t understand your question ken…

  • kensei

    So in the UK you have a time based contribution benefit which then after a period of time – 6/12 months, drops to a income support system. Which I assume is smaller.

    On the other you have a percentage of salary benefit which falls after some amount of time.to a smaller benefit.

    I don’t understand either system, so dont understand the disticnruon. Could someone explain it in layman’s terms?

  • Zig70

    I love Eileen, she can do no wrong by me. I genuinely feel she would do her utmost for the most needy. Can’t say that about many politicians. On top of that, she knows her stuff, another thing lacking on the hill. Who put her name forward?

  • Neil

    Just ran through the calculator there, and I could stand corrected but there appears to be no financial difference between the two. Contribution based JSA seems to be unaffected by savings, and is paid automatically, without having to sign.

  • Disdain

    I think she was probably a natural consensus fit, as Chair of the Social Security Standards Committee. She is the best sort of academic – doesn’t give a damn what other people think, because she generally knows better.

  • Granni Trixie

    I ‘love” and respect her too. But that still does not stop me using my head when I thnk she’s got something wrong (see above).

  • Zig70

    I read it and can see your point but I like the proposal. We do have a unique situation that can only be addressed with lines drawn. Try to take to much on and it snowballs.

  • samstone0123

    Please can someone see how the intro of PIP will decimate motability in NI. The good professor has not commented on the effect that this will have on car dealers never mind the disabled. We, as usual, are being sold snake oil disguised as whatever suits the new establishment. I am seriously convinced that we are increasingly governed b
    Y a collection whose sole interest is the maintenance of power and all that follows.