2,000 on incapacity benefit to be reassessed

ALMOST 2,000 people in the Banbridge district will have their entitlement to incapacity benefit reassessed as part of the Government’s drive to get more people back to work.

A spokesperson for the Department for Social Development said the latest figures for the Banbridge District Council area relate to the period December, 2011, when 1,890 people from the area were claiming incapacity benefit.

They will be among a total of 76,000 throughout Northern Ireland who are currently in the process of having their fitness to work appraised by the Department.

No local figures are available for those who have completed the process so far, but out of the 9,328 across the province to date whose circumstances have been re-gauged, 2.202 have been found capable of work.

A total of 4,262 were found to have “some capability of work”, with 2,864 found incapable of work.

It is planned all incapacity benefit customers will have their entitlement to the benefit reassessed by March, 2014.

Announcing the figures, Social Development Minister, Nelson McCausland, said he was encouraged to see that the reassessment was making “a real difference” to the lives of people he said would otherwise have been left trapped in the benefits system.

“The reassessment of incapacity benefit customers is vitally important,” he said. “It ensures that we do not allow people to languish on a life of benefits, with no opportunity or support to move back into employment.

“It is well recognised that having a job is both good for the individual and good for the community, but the old incapacity benefit regime ensured that this was not an option for people; it consigned many of those who received it to a life of economic inactivity and focussed on how their illness limited their ability to work.

“This reassessment process is focussing on what people can do and giving them the support they need to take the necessary steps, for the first time in a long time, towards getting back to work.”

With 76,000 recipients of incapacity benefit, Northern Ireland has almost twice the percentage of claimants on disability-related benefits compared to England.