Mr Durkan said that Minister Hargey’s approach to date has been lackadaisical pointing out that this is not the first time her department has surrendered millions of pounds allocated for emergency protections.
Said the Foyle MLA: “I’m not surprised that £2 million allocated to help welfare claimants has been surrendered by the Department for Communities, given Minister Hargey’s constant dither and delay to close the loopholes in welfare mitigations.
“Ample opportunity was provided to bring forward legislation to close the gaps and protect vulnerable households- this was ultimately impeded by the Executive’s failure to table these protections.
“Warnings of an underspend and its implications were issued time and time again to the Minister, from myself and advice organisations.
“As had been the case with the return of £2 million allocated to the Discretionary Support Self-Isolation Grant at the height of the COVID pandemic.
“Minister Hargey’s lackadaisical approach to date means those failures have been repeated. Lessons have not been learnt.
“Returning departmental expenditure in general is a marked failure for any Minister but to return money intended to assist vulnerable people during a time of crisis is unforgivable.
“Notice of the return of £2million comes amid the largest overnight cut in the history of the welfare system with the removal of the £20 uplift to Universal Credit.
“Minister Hargey has a duty to protect vulnerable people and her failure not only to step in and take action but the failure to recognise the urgency of these issues – first welfare mitigation loopholes and now retaining the uplift – is hugely concerning.”