One of the biggest issues facing us over the next few years will be 'welfare reform'. The Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government at Westminster is reforming the benefit system in Great Britain and the principle of parity will require that the same changes are made in Northern Ireland.
In the meantime statistics have been released about recipients of one of the benefits, which is Disability Living Allowance (DLA). Some of the findings are that, in Northern Ireland, as of February 2011:
- The number of individuals in receipt of DLA was 185,599.
- More than three quarters (76.7%) of DLA recipients were in the 40+ group.
- The main disabling condition for DLA recipients was 'mental health causes' (22.2%), followed by arthritis (18.4%). 41,000 people fell into the 'mental health' category and 34,000 were suffering from arthritis. In addition 3,630 people received DLA because of alcohol abuse.
- The highest level of DLA recipients was in Strabane (14.3% of population) followed by Belfast (13.8%), Omagh (13.2%) and Londonderry ((13.0%). These figures are for the district council areas, and at the lower end of the range we have Ballymena (7.0%) and North Down (6.5%).
- There are also figures showing the breakdown for parliamentary constituencies and here the highest figure is in West Belfast, where it is 19.19%, a total of 17,463. The figure for North Belfast is 14.65% and this is followed by West Tyrone at 13.91%
Over the next few years DLA will be phased out and replaced by a different benefit but these statistics provide some idea of the current range of DLA recipients in Northern Ireland.