SDLP Assembly Member Justin McNulty has called on the Economy Minister to ensure that unspent funds from the High Street Voucher Scheme are reallocated to boost social protections this winter.
Speaking as the Spend Local Scheme draws to a close, the Newry & Armagh MLA commented:
‘I have been lobbying the Economy Minister to ensure that unspent funding from the High Street Voucher Scheme is redeployed to support struggling households this winter. The cost of living is skyrocketing, energy costs are surging and hard-pressed families are struggling to keep their heads above water.
‘At Hallowe’en, the Finance Minister was unable to find the funding to retain the uplift in Universal Credit – this has plunged more households into financial stress. It is imperative that the Minister for the Economy works with his Executive colleagues to ensure that unspent funding from the High Street Voucher Scheme is put into the pockets of the most vulnerable in our society.
‘The estimated cost of the High Street Voucher Scheme is close to £150m – the cost of funding the retention of the Universal Credit uplift would have cost just 36% of this amount. DUP & Sinn Féin Ministers need to demonstrate that they are committed to enhancing social protections at a time of great stress for so many. This is going to require innovation and creative solutions from Ministers, including the tactical redeployment of unspent resources.
‘It’s time that the DUP/SF led Executive demonstrated, not through their words, but through their deeds, that they are committed to social justice and enhancing protections for struggling households battling with spiralling living costs’.