WELFARE reforms will hit Northern Ireland the hardest, says a report.
And the authors say the changes to benefits could take as much as £750 million a year out of the province’s economy.
Northern Ireland will be hit hardest because of the high numbers of people on Incapacity Benefit and Disability Living Allowance.
The Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA) commissioned report says that Belfast, Strabane and Derry are among the four worst local council areas in the UK.
The reforms are being introduced at Westminster.
However, legislation has yet to go through the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Seamus McAleavey of NICVA says: “When you take money out of the economy it has a knock-on effect.
“Not only would we lose £750m, but where that money gets spent means they will be buying less and there will be fewer jobs in those sectors.
“So it will continue to have an effect.”
Over the forthcoming years people claiming Incapacity Benefit and Disability Living Allowance will be moved on to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Personal Independence Payments (PIP).
However, tougher new tests are being introduced to establish whether people should be entitled to those benefits.
It could lead to a large reduction in claimants with a massive knock-on effect to the economy.
Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland says: “I am very much aware of the issues and concerns of people about the changes to the benefit and tax credit systems in Northern Ireland.
“But we need to change the incentives in the welfare system so that they act as a springboard rather than a trap.”