‘Disabled will suffer under new work assessments’ – Ritchie

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Thursday, June 21st, 2012
SDLP South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has said government must to do more to support carers and has expressed concern that the new work capability assessments will leave many disabled people in even greater need. Speaking to Newry Times, Ms Ritchie said: “In Northern Ireland unpaid carers are worth some £4bn to the economy. However the government, while paying lip service to the work done by our voluntary sector, is undermining them at every turn through its welfare policies including the new Work Capability Assessments, the move to personal independence payments from the existing Disability Living Allowance. “In Northern Ireland it has been estimated that £500 million will be removed from the welfare budget as a result of this government’s policies and this is clearly a move designed to cut expenditure rather than any constructive reform of the benefits system. By taking away such financial support and introducing more stringent qualifications to the Work Capability Assessments the government will be taking away a degree of freedom from many people, which will in turn only increase the pressure on the thousands of carers who will be left to carry the slack on top of their already demanding role.” She continued, “Approximately 100 people per thousand in the North of Ireland currently receive Disability Living Allowance in comparison with 50 people per thousand in Britain. We simply cannot ignore that this is a society emerging from decades of conflict which has left many people emotionally and physically scarred. It is also an enormous concern how so many people are going to be re-tested for their disability benefit in a manner that is just, reasonable and fair. “The new testing system is unlikely to reveal the true extra cost brought on by living with certain disabilities. There is the clear chance that PIP will be badly targeted and neglect those with less complex impairments but high disability related costs.” “Government should be helping vulnerable people in our society rather than introducing these ill-considered and ideologically motivated welfare cuts that will do nothing more than increase the already heavy burden on disabled people and their carers,” Ritchie added.
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