Northern Ireland

Incapacity Benefit: Third of assessed NI claimants 'fit for work'

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Media captionBBC Newsline's Tara Mills explains Incapacity Benefit changes

Almost a third of benefit claimants in Northern Ireland who were re-assessed for their entitlement to Incapacity Benefit have been found fit to work.

More than 80,000 people receive the payment in NI, which is paid to people who are too ill to hold down a job.

Almost half of these claimants have had their cases re-examined due to changes to the UK welfare system.

Of the total who were reassessed, 12,500 were found fit to work and they will lose their Incapacity Benefit.

Critics

They will be transferred to the Jobseeker's Allowance, which is about £30 less per week than the sickness-related benefit.

However, critics have said the reassessment is part of an attempt to cut the overall welfare bill and they are unhappy with many aspects of the reassessment process.

Advice NI, a local independent advice network, is among those who have claimed the process is flawed.

Mary McManus from Advice NI's east Belfast branch said they found that claimants are being reassessed "more frequently".

"For example we have people who were turned down last year, who we represented successfully at appeal, coming back this year where they've been reassessed and we have to represent them again," she said.

About 8,000 people have appealed the decision and about 2,000 appeals have been heard so far.

Finding jobs

Of the appeals that have been completed, over 60% were unsuccessful - meaning the claimant will still lose their benefit.

In Northern Ireland, the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) gathers statistics on the numbers of people who find employment after they are transferred from Incapacity Benefit to Jobseeker's Allowance.

The department said that of the 941 claimants who have moved from Incapacity Benefit to JSA, 67 secured jobs.

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