Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

One in four on DLA to lose out

Minister Nelson McCausland has said some figures outlined in reports on disability benefits were cause for concern
Minister Nelson McCausland has said some figures outlined in reports on disability benefits were cause for concern

One in four people of working-age receiving Disability Living Allowance are set to lose the benefit under new welfare reforms.

Around a third of those claiming can expect to see their award reduced, according to official figures.

In addition, more than a fifth will receive more under the changes to the assessment criteria, according to new data published by the Department for Social Development (DSD).

The Assembly has yet to agree to implement the UK Government's controversial so-called "bedroom tax" reforms, which target benefit recipients who are not deemed to be utilising all the bedrooms in their property.

The reports on the potential impact of welfare reform in Northern Ireland also estimated that more than half of working age people currently receiving housing benefit to help with rent for social homes will see it reduced.

But if the changes are ultimately adopted in Northern Ireland, around 32,650 (52%) of working- age housing benefit claimants in the social sector will receive less money.

According to Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland, some of the figures outlined make for concerning reading.

"The development and publication of these reports is important in that it informs our understanding of the potential impact of the different welfare reform proposals within the Northern Ireland context," he said.

"As I have previously said, I have concerns about the local impact of some of these changes and this concern would appear to be borne out by some of the information in these reports.

"I am continuing to work with Executive colleagues and ministers in Westminster to ensure that the particular needs of people here are taken into account."

The DLA is being replaced by a new benefit for those of working age, called the Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Around one in 10 people in Northern Ireland currently receive DLA. The number of people claiming has increased by 11% over the last five years and the weekly bill has risen from £12 million to £16 million in that period.

Of the 192,000 DLA claimants in the region, around 118,000 are of working age (16-64) and it is that group which is impacted by Pip.

Most will not be affected until the full introduction of Pip in October 2015.

However, DLA recipients whose awards are set to end before that date or whose conditions have changed will be assessed for Pip from this autumn.

There are expected to be around 27,100 in those categories.

A statistical sample analysis of how those claimants would be impacted by the new Pip assessment criteria found that 25% would lose the benefit, around 33% would see their award reduced and 23% would receive more.

Only 19% would see their level of benefit stay the same.

The changes are aimed at reducing the money paid to those whose conditions have a low impact on their daily lives while focusing support on those who face significant challenges.

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