The government has agreed to reconsider a key aspect of its disability living allowance (DLA) reforms, after disabled peers said the measure could cause serious financial hardship to people who have just become disabled.
The government wants to increase from three to six months the period of time a long-term health condition or impairment must last before someone can claim personal independence payment (PIP), the planned replacement for DLA.
But the disabled peer Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson said the first months were “often the period when extra costs are at their greatest, and just as people are trying to adjust their outgoings, they are also adjusting to the impairment or illness”, while she did not believe such people would be able to secure support from other sources.
The Liberal Democrat peer Baroness [Celia] Thomas, who proposed an amendment to the bill that would return the qualifying period to three months – as it currently is with DLA – said this was necessary because some long-term conditions can have a “sudden onset”, while others can only be diagnosed “several weeks after the onset of symptoms”.
A third disabled peer, Baroness [Jane] Campbell, said increasing the qualifying period to six months would mean “another delay for people who find themselves in an appalling situation, in a crisis, and having to face even further barriers to the support that can give them some independence, enable them to get back into the community and return to their families as soon as possible”.
Lord Freud, the Conservative welfare reform minister, said the introduction of a six-month qualifying period was not intended to save money, but to ensure PIP focused on those with long-term needs.
But he said the government would reconsider the issue and “look very closely at what we are hearing, not only from here but from elsewhere”.
17 November 2011