Mid Ulster pensioners biggest benefit claimants

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Some 3,940 elderly people are claiming disability benefits in the Mid Ulster district, accounting for more than one in five of the over-65 population, the highest rate in Northern Ireland.

Within the district, Magherafelt had the highest rate of claimants on Attendance Allowance in the North at 22.4%.

The latest figures, contained in the Department for Communities Benefits Statistics Report, paint a grim picture of the health of local pensioners.

The map, produced in the official Northern Ireland Assembly report, reveals the proportion of elderly people receiving attendance allowance throughout Northern Ireland, with a clear east-west divide.

Mid Ulster MP, Francie Molloy has said the statistics regarding the level of disability related benefit

claims is an indicator of a deeper underlying problem covering areas of health, rural isolation and the long term impact of the conflict.

He said: “I am interested in the figures but what is of greater interest are the people behind the figures. What is the nature of the disability claims, is it for mental health reasons, is it heart conditions, is it for COPD or other illnesses such as stroke, arthritis, dementia etc?

“Rural communities across the six counties are more likely to have poorer housing condition, even today there are areas with no mains water and who rely on springs and water pumps.

“The rural population are more isolated from central services such as GPs, dentists and hospitals. This will all have an impact on their overall health.”

More people than ever are drawing disability benefits in Northern Ireland, with the number of recipients jumping by 25% in 10 years.New figures show there are 205,610 - around one in nine of the population - on DLA. The total has risen by 40,000 compared to a decade ago.

Around three-quarters of all recipients have been on DLA for more than five years.