Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland has responded to Mark H. Durkan's comments on under occupancy.
“Mr Durkan’s comments are completely inaccurate and to suggest I am burying my head in the sand is simply ridiculous.
“I have reiterated time and time again in both in the Assembly and in media interviews my concerns with this element of welfare reform. Some time ago I asked social landlords to ensure that they had considered all options to prevent tenants being evicted from their homes or being made homeless as a result of these changes. I asked both the Housing Executive and the Housing Association movement to bring forward detailed action plans to provide a range of support measures for those households affected. No guidelines were issued by my department.
“I will be continuing to work with my Executive colleagues to ensure the most vulnerable people here are protected as welfare changes are implemented across the UK.
“In addition, over the last few weeks, I published a series of in depth research reports on the Northern Ireland impacts of welfare reform proposals. This research was shared extensively among my Assembly colleagues, the Social Development Committee of which Mr Durkan is a part, the media and stakeholder organisations.
“While a number of elements of the Welfare Reform Act (GB) 2012 are due to be implemented in Great Britain in the coming weeks, these will not begin in Northern Ireland until the Welfare Reform Bill (NI) 2012 has become law and the necessary regulations have been put in place. This Bill is currently making its way through the legislative process at the Northern Ireland Assembly and the next step in the legislative process is Consideration Stage, which will begin on 16 April 2013.”