‘Welfare reform impact on pension hard-hitting’ – Ritchie
SDLP South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has said the effect of the Welfare Reform Bill on the daily lives of pensioners here will be hard-felt, wide-ranging and unjust. Ms Ritchie was speaking as the Pensioner’s Parliament got underway in Belfast on Tuesday.
She said: “The SDLP has been the most vociferous party on this issue because we see it as the most devastating government policy that will directly impact upon the lives of vulnerable people here, especially pensioners. The impact will be wide-ranging in the extreme. I tabled an Early Day Motion in Westminster regarding rising fuel costs and their impact on people here, notably pensioners.
“Without the benefit of a reliable transport service, particularly in rural areas, elderly people are paying crippling fuel costs at a time in their lives when food and home energy bills are already consuming most, if not all of their income. This, on top of proposed implications by the DSD Minister to axe free bus travel for some pensioners will further restrict the independence and mobility of pensioners.”
She continued, “Changes from DLA and Incapacity Benefit to Personal Independence Payment has placed an undue worry on the minds of many elderly and their families, suffering from debilitating illnesses such as MS or Parkinson’s with huge concerns that the new benefit system will fail to properly take into account their differing daily needs and condition. The assistance provided by DLA is essential to the independent living of many elderly people– who also face extra mobility costs because of their disability.”
“The SDLP met Lord Freud in London a number of weeks ago and at that time we argued that much of the character of welfare reform was wrong in principle and would do harm to many people and communities in the North, notably pensioners. With the news from the Public Accounts Committee that up to £200m worth of benefits, mainly those to be claimed by older people, could be left unclaimed, we will continue to fight for the rights and needs of our elderly,” Ritchie added.
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