25/03/2012 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


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


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


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1820 seconds


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


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


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


controversial review of people on incapacity benefits. Today we can


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


believe his evidence on financial irregularities. He says that he


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


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


is a political decision because it would create crude division within


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


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


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


Agreement. Nobody could have predicted it would come to this


past. It is just over a year since the


Department of Social Development began reassessing the estimated


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


concern that some of the assessments will need to be


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


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


and the uncertainty that they face rather than the government spending


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


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


protect the tax payer and incentivise work. The outcome of


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


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


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


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


Under the previous Labour government there was a policy


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


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


increasingly difficult to believe that government and the policy


makers are interested in helping people make the journey from


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


interested in getting them off benefits. The unemployment register


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


speaking to the Social Development Minister, Nelson McCausland. There


are a number of different departments involved in this and


alongside the welfare reform programme, we also need the work


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the people who have been disallowed and identified as capable of


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


evidence should have been quite obvious? You are very much


dependent on a person bringing forward perhaps Documentation from


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


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


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


reversed as additional information has come forward. Looking at the


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


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


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


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


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


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


of those people will need additional help. But would be


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the changeover from disability living allowance to the personal


independent payment and the attempt by government to reduce the


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


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


differences between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United


Kingdom. Two examples. Looking at disability living allowance you


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


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


different demographic profile. What impact that is actually going to


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


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


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


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


want flexibilities. We raise them with senior officials and Iain


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


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


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


monthly payments, single payments into families. He recognises the


challenges we face in Northern Ireland and was very supportive.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


mobility and standing up. He appealed the decision and at


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


for them? Let go back to the Incapacity


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


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


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


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


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


high side. Generally we have implemented the benefits system


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


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


things differently and that people on the assessment programme our


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


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


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


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


healthcare provider provides the medical examination, so there needs


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


opportunity to describe fully their health conditions. The head by


sector is inundated with people needing help with forms. Not


everybody who fails to make it through with incapacity


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


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


people who claim to implement and support alliance that could be


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


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


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


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


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


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


assess better what skills employers require.


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


Gareth Gordon. And we begin with some breaking


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


la he does not seem overly enthusiastic about some of the


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


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


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


income would be concerned that the Treasury has suggested there will


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


same problems that we have gone through with Incapacity Benefit


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


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


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