Civil servants spend £1,000 on cakes to celebrate Universal Credit - and people are furious

Civil servants spend £1,000 on cakes to celebrate Universal Credit - and people are furious

Civil servants in a Stormont department spent more than £1,000 on 40 cakes to celebrate the completion of a controversial year-and-a-half Universal Credit benefits roll out program.

Each cake was branded with a Universal Credit (UC) logo and given to staff in some 40 locations across Northern Ireland, paid for by the department for communities.

The North Belfast MLA Nichola Mallon told the Irish News:

It is also true however that Universal Credit, and the minimum five-week wait for your first payment, is causing financial hardship especially in North Belfast, Antrim and Ballymena, where it is being rolled out in the month of Christmas.

She added that branding the cake with the UC logo was ‘tasteless and insensitive’ and shows a ‘careless disregard’ for low income families.

The new UC rolls out six benefits into one single payment, but recipients have been complaining of delays to the payments, putting them in rent arrears and plunging them into financial problems.

In addition, there are claims that the new UC is causing "real hardship" for many disabled people across Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) chief Les Allamby said the reforms were contributing to higher levels of poverty among disabled people.

The cakes were given to lots of different departmental branches to celebrate the end of the introduction phase, which began in September 2017 and concluded earlier this month.

People online thought the move was insensitive, too.

A DfC spokesperson confirmed to the Irish News in a statement that a "total of £1,125 was spent to purchase 40 cakes which were shared among 2,000 staff at team building events across Northern Ireland".

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