SDLP Councillor Margaret-Anne McKillop has called for a postponement in the roll-out of Universal Credit in the Glens area so people are not left in poverty and despair over Christmas.
According to the Department for Communities’ roll-out schedule, Universal Credit will be operational in the Ballymena and Antrim areas, including the Glens, from December 5.
Councillor McKillop said: “It has been well-documented that this new benefit system leaves people waiting for a minimum of five weeks until they receive their first payment. This means that many new claimants in the Glens will be left without money over the Christmas period this year.
“Christmas can already be a stressful and expensive time, especially for parents. It is preposterous to leave people without a single penny for a minimum of five weeks during this period. This will only push them into misery and debt and has the potential to force desperate people into the ruthless hands of loan sharks.”
The Glens based Cllr said she has written to the Department for Communities to request urgently at least a compassionate delay to the roll-out to ensure that families here are not left in debt and total despair over Christmas.
She continued: “Universal Credit is a failing and cruel system and in the long run what I would ideally like to see is a halt to the scheme as it puts people at further risk of hunger, debt and poverty.
A recent National Audit Office Report, a survey of claimants by the Westminster Government’s own Department for Work and Pensions, confirmed that this benefit system is a failure.
“The evidence is black and white that Universal Credit pushes more families into poverty and a humiliating reliance on food banks.
It would be nothing short of cruel if this plea for at least a temporary Christmas reprieve is ignored.”