By Q Radio News
Thousands of disabled pensioners in Northern Ireland are to be spared regular reviews for the Personal Independence Payment benefit.
The Department for Communities has confirmed that 7 thousand 500 people will no longer have to be regularly reassessed.
This follows a pledge by Work and Pensions Secretary, Amber Rudd - to scrap the current system.
Eddie Lynch is the Commisoner for Older People in Northern Ireland:
Alliance MLA Trevor Lunn has welcomed news.
“This is welcome news and will come as a relief to thousands of people who have to claim this benefit,” said Mr Lunn.
“However, this does not change our concerns about PIP, which we have continually raised, and how it is administered, particularly with mitigation measures due to end next year.
There is no doubt the system is creating stress and pressure upon people, with no consideration of individuals’ particular circumstances or the impact PIP will have upon them.
“I am hopeful this move will make life easier for thousands of people but we must remember there are real people affected behind all these statistics.
The Department needs to engage with people more and in a better way, and hopefully they will then listen to the very real concerns we have about this entire issue.”
Sinn Féin Welfare spokesperson Alex Maskey has said. The West Belfast MLA was commenting after the Department of Communities confirmed that it will end repeat PIP assessments for 7,500 pensioners from the spring.
"The entire PIP assessment is beset with problems and needs to be fundamentally overhauled,” Alex Maskey said.
"Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction and will be welcome news for the thousands of pensioners affected. However, it is only one step and much more needs to be done.
"PIP assessments are being carried out in an unacceptable way right across the board.
"People are coming to our offices right across the North to highlight the trauma, stress and the loss of vital benefits that is being caused due to the cruel way in which many of these assessments are being conducted by Capita on behalf of the Department for Communities.
"I have already called on the Public Services Ombudsman to investigate the handling of PIP assessments and that probe is now underway."
SDLP Social Justice Spokesperson Nichola Mallon MLA said: “We welcome this move but we need to see the detail of exactly who will be impacted by this and how, including those with deteriorating conditions who deserve enhanced PIP awards.
“While positive, the truth is that this move is merely another attempt to tinker around the edges to give the Tory Party the veneer of taking a more ‘compassionate’ approach to welfare entitlement.
"The new welfare system is fundamentally flawed. It is hurting people rather than helping them and requires overhaul rather than piecemeal tweaking in response to legal rulings or political expediency in the Brexit war in Westminster”.