SDLP Social Justice Spokesperson Mark H Durkan has warned that a recent rise in Universal Credit claims, which has doubled in just two months, is a small part of a much bigger picture.
Mr Durkan has called for an urgent recovery plan in preparation for the wider predicted increase in social welfare need post COVID-19.
Said the Foyle MLA: “Now is the time to lay the groundwork for what lies ahead post pandemic.
“While I acknowledge some Universal Credit claimants currently accounted for in this exponential rise may regain employment, the many workers currently furloughed and who may not have a job to return to, must be taken into consideration.
“I expect the number of individuals and families in of need social welfare provision will only rise in the coming months.
“In preparation for that predicted increase, we need to put plans in place to ensure we can navigate the financial fallout of this pandemic.
“In particular we need to be looking toward a massive social housing build programme across the North.
“Not just to feed the demand and tackle the pre-existing housing crisis within this region but in an effort to create vital jobs and help regenerate the economy.”
He added: “With the implications of Brexit not fully realised in conjunction with the colossal impact COVID-19 is having and will continue to have on all facets of our daily lives, the real challenge lies ahead.
“Furthermore, it underscores the critical need for a Universal Basic Income to provide security in the face of wider economic insecurity.
“We are looking toward a future no one could have envisioned, one that requires an altered plan of action.
“The Executive must keep their nose to the grindstone to secure long-term protections to effectively equip individuals, families and our communities going forward.”