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Northern Ireland DLA bill tops £1 billion for first time

Northern Ireland's DLA bill was more than £1 billion in the last financial year
Andrew Madden

NORTHERN Ireland’s annual 'DLA' bill has topped £1 billion for the first time.

Figures released through a freedom of information request show that the landmark figure has been reached following steady year-on-year increases.

Since 2011, annual Disability Living Allowance payments have risen by more than £200m as the number of claimants continues to rise.

The cost has almost doubled in the space of a decade.

As of July 30 this year, a total of 214,000 Northern Ireland residents claimed DLA.

This equates to around one in nine of the population, although it has been claimed the figure is as high as one in five in some parts of the north.

In Britain only around one in 20 people claim the benefit.

Analysts say the difference can be explained by the effects of the Troubles as well as higher deprivation levels.

However, DUP MP Gregory Campbell has expressed concern about the number of new claimants 20 years after the ceasefires.

DLA is targeted at people with health conditions or disabilities which require daily care needs or cause difficulty getting around.

The benefits are directly funded from the British Treasury and sit outside the block grant given to the Executive by Westminster.

As of June 20, however, restrictions on DLA were implemented following years of debate about the rising welfare bill.

The benefit will gradually be phased out in favour of a new payment called the Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Entitlement will be based on the effect a long term health condition or disability has on a claimant's daily life.

PIP will require some individuals previously claiming DLA to undergo more rigorous checks and assessments before being granted the benefit.

Benefit rates can range anywhere from £25 to £130 per week.

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