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Northern Ireland news

Universal Credit protest held in Belfast

Some of those who attended the protest in Belfast yesterday
Connla Young

CAMPAIGNERS have held a protest in Belfast ahead of the introduction of the Universal Credit benefits system.

Several dozen people took part in the demonstration organised by the Right to Work: Right to Welfare (R2W) group outside a Department for Communities office yesterday.

Those taking part delivered a human rights 'checklist' to members of the department's Social Security Standards Committee.

Members of the public, trade unionists, advice workers and politicians attended the event.

Those opposed to the new benefit say it will bring hardship to low-income families who are already struggling to make ends meet.

The Universal Credit is a single monthly payment for people in or out of work and replaces six existing benefits.

It will be phased in starting with the Limavady area of Co Derry from today.

Campaigners say concerns centre on potential sanctions on claimants that include the blocking of payments.

Seán Brady from the group Participation and the Practice of Rights claimed the sanctions system is unfair.

“The decision making system at the minute is one where people are convicted first and have their trial later without the money to afford it,” he said.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People Koulla Yiasouma has said she remains “extremely concerned about the impact that the introduction of Universal Credit will have on the lives on children and young people”.

“I urge the department to consider suspending the introduction of Universal Credit until a comprehensive child impact assessment process is in place, with accompanying measures to mitigate against any adverse impact on children,” she said.

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