Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan has accused the Department of Communities of ‘hiding behind’ the lack of an Executive in order to refuse making humane changes to welfare rules.
She was commenting after the department ruled out scrapping a controversial element of the Personal Independence Payments (PIP) for terminally-ill claimants to be amended.
Karen Mullan said: “It’s now several months since an independent review recommended the scrapping of the cruel requirement for terminally-ill PIP applicants to produce a declaration that they have a life expectancy of six months or less in order to secure their entitlements.
“We have repeatedly raised this with the department, yet they still refuse to do any work on implementing this recommendation on the basis that there is no Executive in place. All five parties here have already made it clear that they oppose the six-month restriction and have made a joint request for it to be ended.
“The political will of all the potential Executive parties is absolutely clear so the department should not be hiding behind the lack on an executive as an excuse to do nothing. At the very least they should be doing the necessary preparatory work so that a new Executive can immediately do the humane thing and scrap this cruel, degrading and damaging restriction.”
The Foyle MLA also branded the welfare system as not fit for purpose.
“Sinn Féin is opposed to the Tory welfare cuts agenda which is the primary driver of ongoing changes to the benefits system,” he said.
“The Universal Credit system is not fit for purpose. The assessments regime within PIP is cruel and driven by cost-cutting and not the needs of the most vulnerable.
“What is needed now is a unified front to challenge the Tory government’s austerity and welfare cuts agenda.”