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Welfare reform blocked by petition of concern

Despite parties reaching broad agreement on welfare reform as part of the Stormont House agreement in December, Sinn Fein lodged a petition of concern yesterday.  The petition, also supported by the SDLP, effectively blocks further passage of the bill through the Assembly. 

Welfare Reform has been subject to long discussions and recently it appeared as though agreement had been reached on how to implement reform in Northern Ireland.  Hansard notes from February show Sinn Fein's support for a package of welfare mitigations to ensure that the most vulnerable are not adversely impacted by these cuts. 

“Until such times as the minister can produce a scheme for agreement which gives effect to the intent of the Stormont House Agreement by providing full protection for current and future claimants, Sinn Féin will not be in a position to support the Welfare Bill going through the Assembly. Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness

Minister for Social Development Mervyn Storey informed the Assembly on 9 March 2015 that he will seek to reschedule the bill.  It is likely that negotiations will now resume to determine the type of mitigation package that is acceptable. 

There may very well be serious consequences for Northern Ireland if the bill is not enacted soon.  

“It remains pivotal that all aspects of the Agreement are implemented in full. Failure to make progress on the issue of welfare has serious implications for the Executive. The recently agreed 2015-16 budget will not be deliverable in its current form.” Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers

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Welfare Reform, NI Assembly
This article was written on 10 March 2015. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.