Time to replace the benefits cheque with a reality check
While the political deadlock continues in Northern Ireland over proposed cuts in welfare, the Belfast Telegraph reveals that the number of people receiving disability benefits here exceeds 200,000. This is an increase of 7,400 since 2014.
In a population of 1.8 million, more than one in nine receives disability benefit. This compares to just over one in 20 in Great Britain. Wales is closest to Northern Ireland with around one person in 12 receiving DLA. On closer inspection the figures reveal that last month 19.9 per cent of people in west Belfast were claiming DLA, compared to the Great Britain average of 5.23 per cent.
North Belfast, with a dependency of 15.5 per cent, and west Tyrone, with 15 per cent, are also high-claiming areas.
These disturbing figures are not sustainable, and the DLA system needs to be tightened up, with more checks put in place.
These are not necessarily to make life harder for those in genuine need, but to cut down on the opportunities for abuse, which could destroy the whole point of having DLA. People need to ask why there is such high level of benefits dependency in Northern Ireland.
Some people such as Paul Maskey of Sinn Fein argue that the legacy of the Troubles has had an impact on people in the front line, on both sides.
Some of this may be true, but there is a strong counter-argument from people like David McNarry who ask pointedly, and not without justification, why Northern Ireland is not following other parts of the UK with measures to bring people out of benefits and into work.
Though there are areas of genuine need, there is also a suspicion that some people have developed a mindset of claiming government entitlements.
Too many in this Province still refuse to accept that the world does not owe them a living. For these people it is time to take a reality check, rather than to seek yet another cheque or handout from the Government.