A LARGE crowd of campaigners turned out at a rally in the Guildhall Square this afternoon to protest against planned cuts to Housing Benefit.
Over 100 people gathered at 1pm beneath the Guildhall to voice their opposition to the planned welfare cuts proposed by the British government.
Prime Minister David Cameron has plans to cut the right to housing benefit for those under 25 as part of moves to cut the welfare bill. He maintains scrapping the benefit for that age group would save almost £2bn a year.
Welfare reforms will cut the amount of benefit that people can get if they are deemed to have a spare bedroom in their Housing Executive house. The government has said that it will introduce new size criteria for housing benefit claims in social housing. This will apply from April 2013 to tenants of working age.
Rally organised Kathleen Bradley, from Dove House said people were outraged at the proposed cuts.
"The amount of people who turned out here today is testament to the strength of feeling there is on this," she said. "We want to take our message to the masses. We want Stormont to take this on board. We will not take this lying down.
“This is the time to stand together and inform government at all levels that we simply ca not afford to take these cuts. This is a benefit tax, a tax on those who are already receiving a helping hand. These cuts amount to the cost of one week of electricity or gas supply every month. They could add up to £500 per year for some households.”
“Almost 40, 000 homes in Northern Ireland will be affected by these rate reductions. These cuts are not their fault they are a failure of government to plan for future generations. It is unfair that Housing Executive tenants are being forced to pay for that failure.”
In sweeping welfare reforms Mr Cameron proposes that out-of-work benefits are linked to wages rather than inflation, if wages are lower. He plans to put a cap on the amount people can earn and still live in a council house. He wants to reduce the current £20,000 housing benefit limit. He expects parents on income support to prepare for work while children have free nursery care and wants the physically able to do full-time community work after a period out of work. He has also proposed that sickness benefit claimants should take steps to improve their health.
Tony O'Reilly from the North West Forum for Disabled People told the gathered crowd that the battle against welfare cuts had only just begun.
"We demand to be treated with dignity," he said. "We must stand together and tell them in one voice that this is wrong. It is a violation of every human right on the planet."
Petitions signed by the public on the day will be brought to Derry City Council this week.