Chris Kamara petitions Downing Street to change pensions rules for dying patients

The 65-year-old Ninja Warrior presenter said ‘people shouldn’t be allowed to die in poverty’.

Charlotte McLaughlin
Thursday 23 February 2023 14:27 GMT
TV presenter and football pundit Chris Kamara, pictured, delivering a petition to Downing Street. (Jeff Moore/PA)
TV presenter and football pundit Chris Kamara, pictured, delivering a petition to Downing Street. (Jeff Moore/PA) (PA Media)

Football pundit Chris Kamara has delivered a petition to Downing Street calling for changes to pension rules for people dying of a terminal illness.

The 65-year-old presenter, representatives of Marie Curie charity and terminally ill campaigners handed the letter containing 166,240 signatures to Number 10 on Thursday.

The petition, organised by the end-of-life charity, urges the Government to give terminally ill people of working age access to their state pension.

Kamara’s mother, Irene, was cared for by the charity’s nurses in her final days in 2003 after she was diagnosed with breast cancer and he has worked with Marie Curie previously on campaigns as an ambassador.

Kamara said: “We never had much money growing up, so I understand the strain that places on a family.

“I can’t imagine having to deal with both of these stressful situations at the same time but that is what everyday life has been like for the people I’ve met through this campaign.”

When asked about the petition on Good Morning Britain (GMB) on Thursday, he said: “People shouldn’t be allowed to die in poverty – 90,000 people die in poverty (every year), so that’s 10 an hour, the capacity of Wembley Stadium when you take it as a whole. So that’s got to stop.

“Once you’re diagnosed with a terminal illness you’ve not got long left, you have to stop your job, your circumstances change, you’re devastated, so social security money isn’t enough, so access (to) the state pension (is needed).”

He added: “(Terminally ill patients are) not getting enough money to help them get by so they have their pension, they worked hard. If you worked hard for 35/45 years of your life, you’ve got three or four years until you’re 66.

“Why not access your pension that you’re never (going to) get?”

Ninja Warrior presenter Kamara has previously spoken out about his difficulties with the speech disorder apraxia, and was asked about his condition on GMB.

He said: “I’m OK. I’ve got inflammation on my brain. So that’s the reason why I have good days and bad days. Today’s better, so much better.

“So what I’m doing is a gluten-free diet, dairy-free diet. I’m trying anything, alternative medicine, all these vitamins to try and see if it helps.”

Sarah Middlemiss, who works for Marie Curie, is urging the government to take action ahead of the spring Budget.

She said: “There is simply not enough financial support available for terminally ill people.

“That’s why we’re here today, urging the Prime Minister (Rishi Sunak) to make good on his pledge to always protect the most vulnerable.

“We know the public support this. We know it is affordable.”

According to research by Loughborough University, published in January, a change to pension rules for terminally ill patients would cost the Government £114.4 million per year.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said “a terminal diagnosis is an unimaginable challenge” and their priority is quick and compassionate financial support while pointing out that people dying can get fast-tracked benefits.

Last year, the Social Security (Special Rules for End of Life) Act 2022 amended the definition of terminal illness so people who are considered by a clinician as having 12 months or less to live – rather than the current six months – can have fast-track access.

Government ministers are also set to respond to Marie Curie’s campaign.

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