1. ITV Report

Watchdog plans probe into handling of PIP benefits

PIP replaced DLA in 2016.

The Public Services Ombudsman has proposed launching an investigation into the handling of Personal Independence Payments.

PIP replaced Disability Living Allowance, or DLA, in 2016 and involved an official review of claimants switching benefits.

Marie Anderson is considering launching her first probe under her own initiative following suspicions of “systemic maladministration”.

The ombudsman's independent inquiry would focus on how Stormont's Department for Communities administers PIP.

It has noted the "high" number of successful appeals of departmental decisions.

Ms Anderson said: "The investigation would be the first under the Ombudsman's 'own initiative' power, which allows for an investigation to take place where there is a suspicion of systemic maladministration."

PIP is aimed at those with long-term ill-health or disability and since June 2016, 160,000 decisions have been made on PIP claims.

The department said the benefit is administered in accordance with the legal framework set down under part five of the Welfare Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 2015 and the PIP Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016 and PIP (Transitional Provisions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016.

It added: "It is administered no differently from the rest of the United Kingdom, with the exception that in Northern Ireland welfare supplementary payments are available for those who are adversely impacted by welfare changes.

"The department is operating within the appropriate statutory mechanisms including the independent appeals process."