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Source: Social Democratic and Labour Party of Northern Ireland

SDLP Social Justice spokesperson, Mark H Durkan MLA, has criticised the £2 million underspend on the Covid-19 Discretionary Support Scheme by the Department for Communities and said it is evidence of the weaknesses of the scheme’s design.

Mr Durkan was speaking after departmental officials confirmed to the Committee for the Communities that the department would be surrendering £2 million that it has not spent on the Covid-19 Discretionary Support Scheme.

The Foyle MLA said:

“The hardship people are facing during this pandemic is undeniable, so it beggars belief that the Communities Minister feels she is in a position to return £2 million of the Covid-19 Discretionary Support Scheme funding. With such demand for support the only explanation can be overly stringent criteria and poor design. This is totally unacceptable and will shock those families struggling to make ends meet. “

“I have long called for a similar scheme to the £500 self-isolation grant available in England, Scotland and Wales, to support people who cannot work as a result of being told to self-isolate. 4000 people could have benefited from that £2 million if such a scheme was available here. Instead, the £20,405 income cap excludes thousands of low-income families.”

“The Minister needs to look again at this scheme urgently and ask herself if we are really in a position not to distribute £2 million to families struggling as a result of this pandemic.”

MIL OSI United Kingdom