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Advice sector plays vital role in supporting people through welfare reforms: McCausland

In a statement to the Assembly today, Minister McCausland reiterated his Departmentís commitment to supporting the advice sector.
Monday, 4 March 2013

Speaking after a private member’s motion on access, provision and funding for independent advice services, Minister McCausland said: “The advice sector plays a vital role in supporting people through the changes arising from the welfare reforms, and I fully recognise the challenges this period of substantial change will bring for the advice sector here in Northern Ireland.

“The significant and complex changes we are embarking on as a result of the reforms are likely to impact on most parts of our society and it is imperative that we protect the most vulnerable. I want to work with advice sector organisations and harness their excellent resource and expertise to mitigate the worst aspects of the planned changes and deliver the best possible outcome for the people of Northern Ireland.”

The Department for Social Development commits £4.5million each year for advice services and works closely with the advice sector to monitor the take up of advice services and the impact of welfare reform.

The Minister continued: “My Department has already devised and introduced a strategy for advice services here in Northern Ireland. This strategy, known as Opening Doors, is geared to help support an integrated, quality advice service across Northern Ireland. It ensures that advice services are planned and delivered in a way which matches resources to need – focusing in particular on meeting the needs of the most disadvantaged.

“My Department is also committed to promoting benefit uptake, and in the past year alone, our “Benefit Take-up” campaign has encouraged 4000 mainly older people to claim additional support of £13.1million, through an awareness campaign and partnership working with the Voluntary and Community Sector.”

Notes to editors:

  1. The private members motion is: “That this Assembly recognises the challenges facing the advice sector and the need for individuals to have access to advice and assistance in relation to their welfare rights; and calls on the Minister for social development to devise an advice services strategy, to develop an awareness campaign for individuals and to provide adequate funding for independent advice providers.”
  2. The key objectives of the ‘Opening Doors’ strategy include:

    · Maximising access to basic advice;
    · Resourcing the future of the advice sector;
    · Providing high quality advice provision; and
    · Using existing resources effectively.
  3. A Northern Ireland Advice Services Consortium was formed to work as strategic partner with the Department to achieve the objectives of the strategy. Its members are Citizens Advice Bureau, Advice NI and the Law Centre.
  4. Media enquiries to DSD Communications Team on 028 9082 9494. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 9971 5440 and your call will be returned.