Stress of new benefits system for disabled 'affecting people's health'
A new benefits system for disabled people is making their health worse, leaving many isolated and struggling to pay for food and bills, a report has warned.
Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a source of financial support for the disabled and those with long-term conditions.
It is being introduced in Northern Ireland to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA), having been operational in parts of Britain since 2013.
But its introduction has caused controversy, with a survey published today flagging up a series of issues.
The UK-wide Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) surveyed more than 1,700 people and found applicants are facing unnecessary barriers to accessing the support they need.
Some 79% of respondents said their assessments for PIP had made their health worse due to stress or anxiety.
Half (50%) of respondents said they were receiving less money under PIP than they were previously entitled to under DLA, or they had lost their award completely.
Some 35% said they were struggling to pay for food, rent and bills, while 40% had become more isolated.
A charity is warning its failings must not be replicated in Northern Ireland.
Nicola Moore, the Northern Ireland director of Parkinson's UK, said: "We cannot merely replicate a system in Northern Ireland which is depriving people of vital lifelines elsewhere in the United Kingdom, as well as serving to remind them of just how difficult life can be with the condition.
"I would urge all decision-makers in Northern Ireland to find ways to take account of long-term conditions and review the implementation of the PIP benefit."
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said PIP was "a better benefit" than the old system and more people received higher levels of support.
But members of the DBC warned their findings from the survey showed that PIP was failing "from start to finish".
Debbie Abrahams, the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: "This is an absolute indictment of the Tories' punitive assessments and the miserable effect they are having on people trying to access desperately needed support."