Belfast Telegraph

The Northern Ireland families who get over £56,000 a year in benefit payouts

By Adrian Rutherford

Revealed: How ten Northern Ireland households are sharing in £500,000 of state handouts, money that '98% of families here can't even imagine'.

Anger has erupted at Northern Ireland's benefits culture after it emerged some families are picking up almost £60,000 a year.

Ten households are sharing a whopping £567,000 annually in State handouts, new figures show.

That is £56,700 each on average - more than double the £24,000 average wage.

A worker in full-time employment would need to be earning £85,000 before tax to take home the same amount.

The figures were disclosed by the Social Development Minister in response to an Assembly question from Ukip MLA David McNarry.

Mr McNarry claimed it was fuelling a society dependent on handouts. "What we're creating is a new rich. They are raking in money which 98% of families here couldn't even imagine."

It comes amid an ongoing wrangle at Stormont over welfare reform.

Implementing the UK Government's changes to the benefits system is a key plank of the Stormont House Agreement.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK without a benefits cap. The Prime Minister wants to limit handouts to £23,000 if the Conservatives win the next election.

Sinn Fein oppose any changes which would leave households worse off. However, today's revelations will increase the pressure to soften their stance.

Mr McNarry had questioned the Social Development Minister on the highest benefits claimants in Northern Ireland.

In his written answer, Mervyn Storey said: "At June/July 2014, it was identified that the total annual benefits (Social Security Agency benefits, Housing Benefit, Child Benefit and Tax Credits) paid to the 10 working-age households, in receipt of the highest amount of benefits, is estimated to be £567,000.

"The average annual benefit amount received by these households is estimated to be £56,700."

Mr Storey said he recognised the concerns that the figures may generate. His answer included two case studies setting out how a family could receive benefits of up to £64,000 a year.

However, Mr McNarry said many working people would be angered by the spending.

"There is absolutely no justification for any family to receive nearly £60,000 in benefits," he added. "Anyone who goes out to work every day will be very angry.

"I've spoken to working people who come home from a hard day's work, they hear figures like these and they ask themselves what is it all about?

"The common term is they would be better off not working. There is no incentive to work any more."

Sinn Fein were contacted about their position on welfare reform, and asked if they agreed that families in receipt of £56,700 should not have their benefits cut. However, we did not receive a response.

In England benefits claimants have their handouts capped at £26,000.

During Wednesday's Budget, Chancellor George Osborne warned of further multi-billion-pound savings to welfare spending if the Conservatives are returned to power,

David Cameron has previously pledged to cap benefits across the UK at £23,000.

Around 12,000 households in Northern Ireland receive more than that sum. However, not all would see their benefits cut if a cap was introduced, as some benefits, including war pensions and attendance allowance, don't count towards the cap.

Last month, this newspaper reported how 6,600 Northern Ireland households receive benefits of more than £30,000 a year.

In total they are collecting £203m annually in State handouts - an average of £30,700 for each household.

How the sums add up: Two examples

FAMILY 1: An unemployed couple living in rented accommodation with five children, two of whom are receiving the high rate care and high rate mobility of Disability Living Allowance. One of the parents is receiving Carer's Allowance.

Jobseeker's Allowance: £86.55

Child Tax Credit: £441.21

Housing Benefit: £120

Carer's Allowance: £61.40

Disability Living Allowance: £276.30

Child Benefit: £73.90

Total weekly income: £1,059.36

Total annual income: £55,086.72

FAMILY 2: A couple living in rented accommodation with five children. One of the children is receiving high rate care/high rate mobility of Disability Living Allowance. Both parents are also disabled, with one parent receiving high rate care/high rate mobility and one receiving mid rate care/low rate mobility. One adult is receiving Carer's Allowance.

Employment and Support Allowance: £266.95

Child Tax Credit: £357.63

Housing Benefit: £120

Carer's Allowance: £61.40

Disability Living Allowance: £352.40

Child Benefit: £73.90

Total weekly income: £1,232.28

Total annual income: £64,078.56

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