The delay in changes to payments of Disability Living Allowance has been described as “an early Christmas present” for people receiving the benefit.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has announced that proposed changes to the DLA will be put back until 2015.
It had been planned that people currently in receipt of DLA aged between 16 and 64 years old would be reassessed for personal independence payment (PIP).
This was due to begin in January 2014.
However, the process will now begin in October 2015 with an expected finish date of 2017.
Kathleen Bradley, benefits adviser at Dove House in Londonderry, added: “This is an early Christmas present and will be a huge relief for everyone who receives DLA.
“People I deal with every day have been seriously stressed by these proposed changes.
“This postponement will give the whole sector time to work together now and get this right for the people who need it most.”
Minister for Social Development Nelson McCausland said the announcement was evidence that the department was “listening to the concerns of people on the ground”.
The SDLP's spokesman for social development, Mark H Durkan, welcomed the announcement but suggested that it was to give the department time to sort out organisational problems.
The Foyle MLA yesterday said: “The switch from DLA to PIP would have had a detrimental effect on thousands of lives and that is a point we have been making since the welfare reform debate started.
“The delay will also give pause for thought as to whether the right choice was made in selecting Capita as the company to conduct reassessments, given their past record, which included what might be viewed as rank incompetence in their failure to properly implement the Government’s Independent Learning Allowance scheme some years ago, at a huge cost to the taxpayer.
“I would urge the minister to use the space this delay creates and to find ways to further militate against the adverse impact of the Tory DLA cuts, preferably by scrapping them altogether.”