Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs has expressed his disappointment after the DUP blocked an amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill that would have required the Department of Social Development to ensure that claimants had access to sufficient independent benefit advice.
Roy Beggs said:
“The Ulster Unionist amendment would have required the Department of Social Development to ensure that sufficient support was available to the advice sector and that no gaps existed in the delivery of future advice.
“The right advice at the right stage can save huge sums of money by avoiding expensive appeals, as well as making sure people are submitting accurate claims in the first place.
“I was disappointed that the DUP expressed their opposition to this and instead issued a Petition of Concern which meant that they themselves could override the view of the rest of the Assembly. Defeat of the amendment would have been automatic.
“During the debate the Minister did however indicate that he recognised the widespread concern of Assembly Members and stated that he would reflect on the content of the debate between now and when it is set to return in two weeks time.
“Rather than move the Ulster Unionist amendment and face certain defeat by the DUP Petition of Concern, which would have prevented the possibility of the issue being brought back at the next legislative stage, we decided not to move the amendment.
“This allows the pressure to be maintained on the Minister to bring forward a lasting resolution to this particular issue.
“The Ulster Unionist Party will continue to press the Department to ensure that good advice is available across Northern Ireland to assist those in need of support to draw down the help that they may be entitled to.”