25% of DLA recipients 'to lose out'
One in four working-age recipients of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in Northern Ireland is set to lose the benefit under welfare reforms, official figures have indicated.
Almost a third of claimants can expect to see their award reduced, while more than a fifth will receive more under the changes to the assessment criteria, according to new data published by Stormont's Department for Social Development.
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.
The Stormont 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.
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.
Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland said some of the figures outlined in the reports were cause for concern.
"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.