Huge rise in locals on the DLA since 2002

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THE number of people claiming disability living allowance (DLA) could reach half the population, if current trends continue, East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell has said.

Between 2002 and 2011, the percentage of people in the local East Londonderry constituency claiming disability living allowance (DLA) increased significantly.

Now, Gregory Campbell is asking “if the increase continues for another ten years, will we reach the stage where half the population is claiming DLA?”

In 2002, 6.6 per cent of the population of the East Londonderry parliamentary constituency, which covers Limavady and much of the surrounding area, were receiving disability living allowance. This figure increased every year until 2011, by which time 8.7 per cent of the population were ‘on the DLA.’

In fact, across Northern Ireland and in every single parliamentary constituency area, the proportion of the population receiving DLA increased significantly from 2002 until December 31, 2011 – the most recent date figures are available for.

In comparison with other areas, perhaps most strikingly with the West Belfast constituency, East Londonderry has a relatively small percentage of the population ‘on the DLA.’

In West Belfast, where there was also an increase every year from 2002 to 2011, almost 20 per cent of the total population is receiving DLA - the highest ration in Northern Ireland.

The figures were released by Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland in response to questioning from East Londonderry MP and MLA Gregory Campbell.

Mr Campbell had initially asked the Minister for the “total number of people who were in receipt of Disability Living Allowance; and ratio of recipients to population in each constituency on December 31, 2011.”

The local DUP man then continued that line of questioning, drawing figures from the Minister showing the percentage of people claiming DLA in each constituency from 2002 through to December 31, 2011.

Speaking to the Sentinel, Mr Campbell suggested that if the increase in the proportion of the population receiving DLA continues to increase, a situation could soon arise whereby around half the population are claiming incapacity related benefits. He also questioned how there could be such a discrepancy between area such as West Belfast and East Londonderry.

Mr Campbell said: “My view is, particularly when we are talking about a high degree of welfare dependency, that the people who are most in need of it, rely on it and deserve it continue to get it.

“While in East Londonderry there has been a significant increase it is actually quite low in comparison with some areas. In West Belfast, it is around one in five of the population.

“I can understand a slight variation in the figures but there is such a significant disparity. I think it is difficult to believe that in one part of Northern Ireland one in 12 is entitled, but somewhere else it is one in five. It is difficult to imagine such a disparity in terms of the numbers of people being sick or incapacitated in some way.”

“While this is a percentage of the total population, it is important to remember that it’s actually a higher percentage again when you look at the eligible population.

“People over a certain age are not eligible for it, for instance, so if those who are not entitled to get it are are excluded from these figures – maybe it would be even higher again. In somewhere like West Belfast it might go from being around one in five to something closer to one in four.”

He added: “For those who are in receipt of DLA, I think the system must distinguish between those who are genuinely in need of it and those who are not, although I acknowledge that it is difficult. Those who are wrongly receiving DLA are taking it away from the people who need it most.

“If the increase continues for another ten years, will we reach the stage where half the population is claiming DLA?”

Mr Campbell added that he has spoken to Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland about his concerns regarding the increase in the percentage of the population receiving disability living allowance in East Londonderry and elsewhere in Northern Ireland.