Page last updated at 11:59 GMT, Monday, 22 October 2012 12:59 UK

Welfare Reform Statement

The Social Development Minister told the Assembly he had negotiated a series of local concessions on welfare reform, on 22 October 2012.

Nelson McCausland said that, following negotiations with the Department of Work and Pensions in Westminster, it was proposed that rental payments would be paid direct to landlords, universal credit could be paid to more than one recipient in a household, and could be paid fortnightly, not monthly.

He announced that universal credit would be launched in April 2014.

The minister said the DWP minister, Lord Freud, had given him the commitments following a meeting the previous week.

"In my dealings with Lord Freud, I have found him to be someone who has a genuine interest in the specific challenges we face here in Northern Ireland," Mr McCausland said.

The minister was critical of MLAs who had challenged the Welfare Bill in its second reading in the Assembly.

"Some in this house wanted to kill this bill under various cloaks of convenience and to foolishly ignore the consequences," he said .

Mr McCausland said there would be no breach of parity with the rest of the UK in these commitments.

Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey, who chairs the social development committee, welcomed some aspects of the statement. He said he looked forward to the initiative being taken further.

Mr Maskey was critical of what he described as the political aspects of the statement.

"We have a lot if work to do in the time ahead," he said.

Mark Durkan of the SDLP welcomed the statement, but described the minister as "quite reminiscent of Neville Chamberlain".

Mr McCausland thanked the member for Foyle for his praise but drew attention to what he described as "chest-beating" in a press release issued by Mr Durkan earlier in the day.

"I thought he was going to audition for a Tarzan film," he said.

Judith Cochrane of Alliance suggested that the minister might be able to wring more concessions on housing benefit if the Executive was seen to be more "proactive" on encouraging mixed housing.

The minister said it should be remembered that most private homeowners also lived in segregated areas and this was not just a matter for the social sector.

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