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Costs of Disability

Volume 529: debated on Monday 13 June 2011

15. What estimate he has made of the costs incurred by a disabled person in the three months following diagnosis of their disability. (58796)

No such estimate has been made. Perhaps I should gently remind the hon. Lady that disability living allowance generally, and personal independence payments absolutely, are not related to a medical diagnosis. They are about considering people as individuals and looking at the impact of their disabilities on their ability to live independent lives. Circumstances, needs and costs will vary from individual to individual, and do not necessarily correlate to a diagnosis.

In Committee, the Under-Secretary said that the reason for the proposal was not savings and that she did not expect to make any savings from it. Yet people who fall ill with sudden onset conditions incur additional costs. They are not long-term unemployed or welfare dependent. Why is she making the change if not to make savings?

I think what I said in Committee was that there would be some savings but that they were modest. The principle of a six-month qualifying period was not intended to deny disabled people help in the short term. That help currently comes mainly but not exclusively from means-tested support, with the personal independence payment starting when costs become a burden to people, regardless of their income. That is why it is not means-tested.

Will the six-month qualifying period allow for special cases, such as people with a terminal illness, who might not survive six months?

I can absolutely assure my hon. Friend that that will be the case and that we will carry forward that provision from disability living allowance.

I am sure that it is not the Government’s intention in time-limiting employment and support allowance—the other disability-related benefit—to leave nearly 7,000 cancer patients potentially up to £94 a week worse off. Today, Macmillan Cancer Support and others warn that that is exactly the consequence of the Government’s policy. Will the Under-Secretary take the opportunity of the Report stage of the Welfare Reform Bill to modify that damaging policy?

The hon. Lady has asked about employment and support allowance. We will obviously ensure that people in the most difficult circumstances continue to receive the support they require through the support group. For disability living allowance, it is absolutely vital that we do not analyse people on their condition, but examine the problems that they encounter in living independent lives. I think that she would expect us to do that.