Ulster Unionist Welfare spokesperson, Michael Copeland MLA has expressed his concern that some of Northern Ireland’s most vulnerable citizens could be plunged into poverty and destitution under the government reform of disability allowances.
“Under current proposals, the changeover from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will affect millions across the United Kingdom. In Northern Ireland alone there are 180,000 people who are in receipt of DLA, all of whom will have to be reassessed.
Following the fiasco that accompanied the work capability assessments, my Party and I are calling for safeguards to be built into the contracts of those appointed to carry out the assessments for PIP. It is vital that the assessors have appropriate medical training and are able to access claimants’ medical records to ensure a fair process.
Given the murder and mayhem we faced here over the past forty years, it is no surprise that the main disabling condition for recipients in Northern Ireland is mental health. Over forty thousand people suffering from different forms of mental illness will have to undergo this new assessment process.
Under the new assessment system around 28,000 people in Northern Ireland are anticipated to lose their DLA. Whilst the Ulster Unionist Party believes that people should not be getting benefits to which they aren`t entitled and understand that there is a need for reform within our welfare system, we will however fight to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society are protected.”