Health secretary Andy Burnham has promised that the government will not scrap disability living allowance (DLA), but only for disabled people under the age of 65.
Speaking at the national children and adult services conference in Harrogate, Burnham said he wanted to “close down” the debate and controversy over the future of DLA.
But he suggested that the government had previously been considering scrapping DLA, and that scrapping DLA for those aged over 65 was still an option.
Disabled people over 65 can currently receive DLA, as long as they claimed the benefit for the first time before they reached 65.
Burnham said: “We recognise that this is an important benefit for disabled people, and I can state categorically that we have now ruled out any suggestion that DLA for under-65s will be brought into the new National Care Service.”
He said this was because “the majority of the people needing care in the future will be older people”.
Questioned afterwards about the future of DLA, a Department of Health spokeswoman said: “No decision on that has been made yet for those over 65.
“It is still open to consultation. Depending on what they say we will make a decision.”
Concerns over the future of DLA, a key disability benefit, which is not means-tested and is intended to cover the extra costs of an impairment, were raised after the government published its care and support green paper in July.
The green paper said the government was considering “integrating” some disability benefits, including attendance allowance (AA), to help social services fund means-tested personal budgets.
Thousands of disabled people have protested about the threat to DLA and AA.
More than 13,000 people signed up within five days to a campaign launched by the Benefits and Work website, while many disabled people expressed their concerns on the government’s Big Care Debate website.
And a petition calling on the prime minister to save AA and DLA, launched on the Number 10 website by members of the Disability Charities Consortium, has secured more than 18,000 signatures.
Burnham also repeated the threat to AA, saying that the government was still considering “bringing together elements of some disability benefits, such as attendance allowance, with social care funding, to create a new care and support system to provide for the needs of older and disabled people”.
He said anyone receiving any of the relevant benefits at the time of reform would continue to receive an “equivalent level of support and protection” under the new system.
22 October 2009