3.26 Section 77(3) of the Act states that a person must meet prescribed conditions relating to residence and presence in Great Britain. The current absence abroad rules for DLA were introduced in 1992 and were based on the rules for Attendance Allowance (introduced in 1971). Under regulation 2 of the DLA regulations13 an individual can be absent for up to 26 weeks for any reason before they lose entitlement to benefit. This period can be extended for an unlimited period if the Secretary of State has given prior agreement to medical treatment outside Great Britain.
3.27 There have been many social and economic changes since 1971 and it was never envisaged that benefit claimants would generally be allowed to spend lengthy periods abroad. The present provisions date from a time when absences were mainly for treatment in sanatoria in Europe, where for instance long term rest was recommended.
3.28 We consider that continuing to pay benefit for up to six months abroad no longer reflects the original policy intention and provides a loophole whereby people who are mainly resident abroad could continue to claim benefits by claiming they are on extended holidays.
3.29 We propose that after four weeks abroad Personal Independence Payment should no longer be payable and entitlement should end. Around 75 per cent of working age DLA claimants are also in receipt of incapacity benefits (including Employment and Support Allowance) and these benefits only allow an absence of four weeks abroad. Also, the 14 per cent of DLA recipients14 in work are unlikely to be able to take more than a four week holiday abroad. However, where people have gone abroad for specific medical treatment we propose that the period of absence be extended up to a maximum of 26 weeks.
According to the Office for National Statistics International Passenger Survey the average time working age people spend out of Great Britain is 11 days in a year. We therefore think the proposal to limit temporary absence abroad is proportionate and reasonable.
Is the period of four weeks temporary absence from Great Britain sufficient? If no - why do you think the absence should be longer? And what do you think that longer period should be (and why?)
Is six months temporary absence for medical treatment sufficient? If no - please explain why you think this period should be extended. And to what period?
Are there any other circumstances when you think the temporary absence period should be longer?
3.31 Under the current DLA provisions people who cannot “benefit from enhanced facilities for locomotion”15 are prohibited from entitlement to the mobility component. These provisions have traditionally been used to exclude people in a coma or in a Persistent Vegetative State.
3.32 For Personal Independence Payment we looked to take forward these provisions from DLA using the regulations-making power at section 79(7) of the Act. We made clear during the passage of the Welfare Reform Bill16 that we only intended to use these provisions as they affect people who are in a coma or a Persistent Vegetative State. Having considered this further, however, we expect that most people who would be unable to benefit from enhanced mobility as a result of these conditions would be in a hospital or similar institution where no benefit is payable after the first 28 days. We do not therefore intend to make regulations under this power but will monitor the situation.