Our society owes an enormous debt to individuals and organisations that care for friends, family and loved ones. That does not just make our society richer, but in Northern Ireland alone unpaid carers are worth more than £4 billion to the local economy. However, although the Government pay lip service to the work that our voluntary sector does, they are undermining it at every turn through their welfare policies, including the new work capability assessment for employment and support allowance and the move to personal independence payments from the existing disability living allowance.
In Northern Ireland, it has been estimated that some £500 million will be removed from the welfare budget as a result of the Government’s policies. That is clearly a move designed to cut expenditure rather than a constructive reform of the benefit system. By taking away financial support and introducing more stringent qualifications for personal independence payments and the work capability assessment, the Government will take a degree of freedom away from many people. That will only increase the pressure on the thousands of carers who will be left to carry the slack on top of their already demanding role.