Third of DLA claimants in Northern Ireland have benefits axed
One third of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) claimants in Northern Ireland have had their benefit stopped after reassessment for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
Figures obtained by BBC Spotlight programme broadcast on Tuesday showed that 7,704 claimants were disallowed.
PIP was introduced in Northern Ireland in June 2016 as part of welfare changes agreed by the Northern Ireland Executive.
It is paid to people who face extra costs due to ill health or disability.
Assessments are being carried out in Northern Ireland until December 2018 on current DLA recipients aged between 16 and 64, and just over 21,000 reassessments had been completed by the end of July 2017.
In a statement to the BBC, the Department of Communities said the process was in "very early days" and 125,000 claimants still need to be assessed.
Assessments for PIP claims are carried out on behalf of the Department for Communities by outsourcing company Capita, although it is the decision of the Department whether or not individuals are awarded benefits, and the value of the award.
The company carry out assessments aimed at determining a person's ability to "undertake everyday mobility and daily living activities".
It is not contracted by the Department for Communities to determine a person's impairment or health condition.
A Capita spokesperson told the Belfast Telegraph: "Our disability assessors are healthcare professionals equipped with the knowledge, skills and training set out by the Department for Communities to conduct functional-based PIP assessments across Northern Ireland.
"We are committed to delivering accurate high-quality reports and ensure this through comprehensive training and ongoing specialist support for our healthcare professionals, as well as having a robust audit process in place."
Customers unhappy with the result of their PIP assessment can lodge a reconsideration request. If this is unsuccessful, customers can appeal to an Independent Tribunal.
In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, the Department of Communities said: "A number of mitigation schemes to support people who lose out financially as a result of the changes including those transitioning from DLA to PIP and one of these schemes supports people with a payment until the appeal is determined."
Belfast Telegraph Digital