25/03/2012 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


25/03/2012

Andrew Neil and Tara Mills with the latest political news, interviews and debate, including an interview with Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls.


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On the Sunday Politics in Northern Ireland: only a third of benefit

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claimants to her unfit to work. We asked the social benefits Minister

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1820 seconds

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how the others are going to find a Hello and welcome to Sunday

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Politics in Northern Ireland. It's all about helping people to get

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back into work - that is the Government's rationale for its

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controversial review of people on incapacity benefits. Today we can

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reveal what come into the Sirte -- first batch of people who have been

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reassessed. There is no work out Bertie Aherne it resigned from

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Fianna Fail last night. Did he jump before he was pushed? There had

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been due to be a meeting later this week to discuss the expulsion of

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Bertie Ahern. It is likely that would have taken that move. His

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resignation has forestalled cat. There was a sense that he was up

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against it after the tribunal decided it did not believe it it --

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believe his evidence on financial irregularities. He says that he

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rejects that findings of the tribunal and that he will fight to

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clear his name and that this is no admission of wrongdoing. He says it

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is a political decision because it would create crude division within

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Fianna Fail. He has taken this action today and it is really a

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story of somebody having fallen from a very great height. One

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thinks back to 1998 in his role in the cosy tint the Good Friday

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Agreement. Nobody could have predicted it would come to this

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past. It is just over a year since the

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Department of Social Development began reassessing the estimated

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76,000 people who claim incapacity benefit here. The process will not

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be completed until 2014, but we can now reveal the results of the first

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batch of people to be reviewed. 24 % of people have had the benefit

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removed and 46 % have been ruled fit for work. 30 % were found to be

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unfit for work. Of the 2000 or so people who were told their

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incapacity benefit was being cut, 1382 appealed the decision. So far

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247 appeals have been completed and 40 % of those were successful. We

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will hear from the minister shortly, but first let's talk to Ian Parsley.

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Also, to Kevin Higgins from advice Northern Ireland. They are is a

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concern that some of the assessments will need to be

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revealed and there is no doubt there will be a number of appeals.

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My concerns are more for the people who go into those appeals processes

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and the uncertainty that they face rather than the government spending

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around them. It is important early in the debate to frame it correctly,

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that the objectives of welfare reform are to simplify the system,

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protect the tax payer and incentivise work. The outcome of

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welfare reform has to be judge and whether or not it has achieved that.

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I think your viewers would agree with those principles, but as the

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implementation match but the eerie? Kevin, are people worried about

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this? I think it is useful to go back to the background of this.

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Under the previous Labour government there was a policy

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statement in 2007 and the goal was to get 1 million people off

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incapacity benefit. That set the trend that people may be find it

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increasingly difficult to believe that government and the policy

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makers are interested in helping people make the journey from

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welfare to work. The concern is that the government are just

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interested in getting them off benefits. The unemployment register

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will grow significantly over the next couple of years. I have been

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speaking to the Social Development Minister, Nelson McCausland. There

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are a number of different departments involved in this and

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alongside the welfare reform programme, we also need the work

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programme. There are two sides to this. That is the responsibility of

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another department. There will be a work programme in place and that

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will provide assistance. There are people who perhaps have had no

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experience of work at Old, people who might lack some basic skills to

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get them into employment. That is the sort of work there will be

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undertaken by a work programme. That would have to be specific to

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Northern Ireland. Are you happy that that is not in place? These

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people are being reassessed now. They are moving on to other

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programmes that are already there, but the full package of welfare

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reform... we do have programmes like back to work, steps to work,

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Surrey. And when the imagine this will take place. I appreciate it is

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another department, but there must be a sense of urgency to get a

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proper work programme in place. There is urgency about it. I am

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sure that's it will be taken bored with the urgency. High have you any

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idea of a time frame, months or years? He didn't give me a time for

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that. We already have the steps to work programme there. It is just

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there will be a better version come a much more improved work programme

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than meets the needs of the new situation. Let's look at the

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figures on the people who have had appeals heard. It is a small number

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out of the 1300 or so we have put in an appeal. Of those, 40 for

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cents were successful. That seems very high. -- a 40 %. I am actually

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very encouraged by the figures. The first thing is this, the figure of

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the people who have been disallowed and identified as capable of

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undertaking work stands at 24 %. But is interesting because it is

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very different from some of the stories that I have seen and heard.

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We have had one politician saying that in Strabane 90 % of people

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were being disallowed. The figure is actually only 24 %. It is that

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sort of exaggeration, albeit the person said this is anecdotal. Q We

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have the hard facts. When people put out stories saying things that

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90 % of people have been disallowed, back creates concern at. The true

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figure is 24 %. Of those who are turned down, 63 % decide to appeal

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to it. Some people simply accept it. Of those two at the late 60 % of

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the appeals are found in favour of the previous decision and 40 %

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there is a change. Does that not seem very happy to you? What it

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says to me is that the independent appeals system is working and the

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main reason why you get changes from the cases that we have seen so

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far, the main reason seems to be that additional medical evidence is

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provided by the customer. Given the very long process that people have

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to go through, surely at some point along that line that medical

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evidence should have been quite obvious? You are very much

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dependent on a person bringing forward perhaps Documentation from

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a surgeon, from a psychiatrist, what ever. But his additional

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information they can provide that the perhaps have been provided. We

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have all been aware of incidents as when people have had decisions

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reversed as additional information has come forward. Looking at the

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figures, at 9300 is now reasonably good sample for any sort of survey.

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If we then say take that to the 76,000 people, that means that

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around 18,000 people are likely to fall into the category of having

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their incapacity benefit stopped. But puts a sizable number of people

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on to the unemployed would register. The pits a number of people into a

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position where they are going to be supported to find employment. Many

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of those people will need additional help. But would be

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training, personal skills, personal development, job experience. People

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will have different needs. The key thing for me is that being in work

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is a good thing. Let's look at the Disability Living Allowance. 20 %

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cut in funding is expected. How do you justified the for is that

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nobody will be worse off, of course there will be people who are

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currently on it you will not get it all will get less. How do the sums

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add up? Quite clearly there are good points in welfare reform and

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there are things that are not so good. There are things that are

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quite clearly very sound and to which we are fully committed. We

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have made that very clear. You are not happy with the disability

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living allowance? Take the credit works well. There are other bits,

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the changeover from disability living allowance to the personal

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independent payment and the attempt by government to reduce the

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increase on spending benefit. That has a negative aspect to it. That

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is something I would put on the more negative side. There are

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differences between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United

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Kingdom. Two examples. Looking at disability living allowance you

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will find it in Northern Ireland there is a much higher percentage

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of people who are in that because of mental illness. It is a

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different demographic profile. What impact that is actually going to

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have on the delivery of its and that financial working of it, we

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don't know. He met Iain Duncan Smith last week, is there any good

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news for people in Northern Ireland? What have you been able to

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convince him. There have been a number of areas identified for we

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want flexibilities. We raise them with senior officials and Iain

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Duncan Smith. On the flexibilities I can be got an encouraging

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response. Specifically? The issues that go round there in the general

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world around us around -- around direct payments to landlords,

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monthly payments, single payments into families. He recognises the

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challenges we face in Northern Ireland and was very supportive.

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Paddy Coyle from County Tyrone is one of many benefit claimants who

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have challenged the new system of assessments. He told Yvette Shapiro

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about his experience. They award you points for sitting and standing.

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Paddy Coyle has become a reluctant expert on the benefits system. A

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spray painter by trade, he has not been able to work since he fell off

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a ladder last year and shattered his leg. Would you get a lot of

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pain with it? Yeah, certainly. look at it you would know. How many

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pins? Nine or 10 pins. Paddy's been claiming Employment and Support

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Allowance since his accident. He was called for a medical assessment

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last summer and was shocked at the outcome. I was sent for a board

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with this cage on and failed the board, they told me I was fit to

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work. Even with a cage on your leg? With the cage on my leg, yes. A bit

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of common sense would have been needed. I went over the Jobseekers

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office, they basically laughed at me - what are we going to do with

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you? In fact, Paddy was given no points in his assessment, even for

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mobility and standing up. He appealed the decision and at

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another hearing in the autumn he was awarded 15 points and his full

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benefit was reinstated. As the Politicians like Sinn Fein's Mickey

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Brady say Paddy's experience is typical of the type of cases they

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are dealing with. He fears that the system is buckling under the strain.

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In England, there was delays of up to a year for appeals and I think

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we will see that here. I want to encourage people who feel they have

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a right to appeal, to appeal. There is a cost to the public purse and

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that isn't always factored in. Paddy has plenty of unwanted time

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on his hands at the moment and is anxious to get back to work when

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his leg heals. He acceps he will have to re-train for another less

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physical type of employment, but that's a worry in itself. There is

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no work there. Where they are going to put the people I haven't a clue.

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And to re-train them in what, to do what, when there's nothing there

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for them? Let go back to the Incapacity

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Benefit appeals. Are you surprised that the 40 %? I think it is a

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little higher than it would be ideally. The stress it puts on the

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people going through appeals... and the amount of money it cost us in

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Northern Ireland is a matter for some concern. It is not wildly

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beyond what I would have expected it to be, but it is a little on the

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high side. Generally we have implemented the benefits system

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better than an England. I would like to see his aim to repeat that.

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Kevin come of the department is at pains to point out that we do

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things differently and that people on the assessment programme our

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telephone before they get the first letter, telephone down again before

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they get another letter. Do you think you're doing a good job?

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communication end of things is good in the Department of put those

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steps in place. There is focus on the medical examination. A private

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healthcare provider provides the medical examination, so there needs

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to be a focus and getting that right and giving people the

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opportunity to describe fully their health conditions. The head by

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sector is inundated with people needing help with forms. Not

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everybody who fails to make it through with incapacity

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reassessment or necessarily going to be able to claim jobseeker's.

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The other big thing coming down the track is welfare reform. For some

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people who claim to implement and support alliance that could be

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limited to one year. That is a big issue. The work programme is a big

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issue. But you have been on incapacity for 10 years it is like

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the you don't have the skills to going to the job market. Long-term

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unemployment is not deliberately -- not directly linked to the job

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cycle. We still have the highest economic inactivity rate in the UK.

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We need to do a lot more in general to get people back into work and

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assess better what skills employers require.

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It is Sport Relief weekend. For more of the political week, here is

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Gareth Gordon. And we begin with some breaking

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news. The former Miss prison down macro bad news for smokers and

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pensioners, good news for the super rich. There are a lot of things

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which concern me in this Budget. Bertie Ahern is not laughing any

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more after a bird -- after a tribunal found he lied about his

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bank accounts. He will be the next Ulster Unionist leader? Could this

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be a clue? Do they call me leader? Not yet. While some might regard it

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as boring, I personally regard it as very exciting. In this Olympic

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year, Sport Relief unearthed a few potential stars. Or maybe not.

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Just going back briefly to some of the ministers other comments. UN de

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la he does not seem overly enthusiastic about some of the

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changes, but have we lost the argument? Will people have to said

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they are going to get less? welcome that the minister is

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concerned about that. The advice sector and people reliant on this

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income would be concerned that the Treasury has suggested there will

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be a 20 % cut. We would be concerned that we would go to the

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same problems that we have gone through with Incapacity Benefit

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moving to the E S A. We need to make sure that people are supported

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through the process and the people who are entitled to the benefit get

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