HC Deb 19 March 2003 vol 401 cc855-6W
Mr. Boswell

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) in what circumstances disability living allowance is currently payable to persons who go abroad; and if he plans to review this; [101724]

(2) which benefits are available to eligible disabled students pursuing their studies (a) in the United Kingdom, (b) within the European Economic Area and (c) elsewhere on the basis that (i) the course of study is centred on a UK institution and (ii) the period abroad is either a requirement of the course or a recommendation of course tutors. [101916]

Maria Eagle

Under domestic law, people who are ordinarily resident in Great Britain can receive disability living allowance (DLA) during the first 26 weeks of a period of temporary absence abroad. This period can be extended where someone is abroad specifically to receive treatment for an illness or disability. Members of HM forces serving abroad and their families, mariners and airmen working abroad, and people working on the UK sector of the continental shelf may also receive these benefits.

People who spend longer than 26 weeks abroad can receive DLA immediately upon their return providing the total period of temporary absence does not exceed 52 weeks. A longer absence will defer entitlement by a corresponding number of weeks, for example, a person who returns after 54 weeks can be paid after two weeks of residence and, after 78 weeks of temporary absence, a person will need to spend 26 weeks in Great Britain before payment can recommence.

Under European Community law, workers and members of their families who were entitled to DLA before 1 June 1992 can continue to receive it if, before that date, they left the UK and took up permanent residence in another member state of the European Union (EU). The law changed at that date, with transitional provision made for such cases. The provisions are treated as also covering workers and members of their families who move to another member state after 1 June 1992 provided their entitlement to the benefit started before that date. Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Gibraltar and Switzerland are treated like EU member states for social security purposes.

Disabled students can receive DLA on the same basis as other severely disabled people. The 26 weeks temporary absence rule means that those who study in another country, whether or not an EU member state, can receive payment continuously if they return to Great Britain during the vacations.

Students pursuing their studies in Great Britain may also receive incapacity benefit (IB). In addition, those who are entitled to a disability premium or severe disability premium in the assessment of income support (IS), housing benefit (HB) and council tax benefit (CTB) are eligible for IS, HB and CTB while studying full-time in Great Britain.

The domestic law on temporary absence abroad which applies to contribution-based IB and noncontributory IB (which replaced severe disablement allowance for young people from April 2001) reflects the rules for DLA, subject to certain conditions. The recipient must have been incapable of work for six months or receiving treatment for their incapacity or have an incapacity which resulted from an industrial injury. Payment of IB can continue beyond the first 26 weeks if the person also gets DLA (or attendance allowance, which is available to severely disabled people aged 65 or over).

Under European community law, IB based on National Insurance contributions can usually be paid to people resident in an EU member state. It can also be paid in countries with which the UK has a reciprocal social security agreement. Any further provisions for the payment of IB depend on the terms of the individual agreements.

IS is payable for up to four weeks of absence abroad. Payment is made when the recipient returns. Any person who is temporarily away from home may receive HB and CTB for up to 13 weeks provided they intend to return during that period and their home is not let or sub-let during their absence.

We have no plans to review these arrangements. Information about Northern Ireland is a matter for the Northern Ireland Office.