Two-thousand terminally ill benefit claimants died waiting for government review, says charity

Then work and pensions secretary promised ‘fresh and honest evaluation’ last July

Jemma Crew
Saturday 11 January 2020 15:13
Comments
Terminally ill people expected to live longer than six months are disadvantaged by current benefit rules
Terminally ill people expected to live longer than six months are disadvantaged by current benefit rules

Almost 2,000 terminally ill people struggling to claim benefits in Britain have died while waiting for a review promised by the government, a charity estimates.

The government promised to review the benefits system for terminally ill people last July after charities said it was not fit for purpose in a damning parliamentary report.

Marie Curie based its estimate on data from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which the charity said shows an average of 10 people a day died while waiting for a decision on their personal independence payment (PIP) claim over a five-year period.

Then work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd said claimants near the end of their lives deserved “a fresh and honest evaluation” of the system.

She said no one should be suffering “unnecessary hardship” after charities told MPs the struggle to access benefits was making people’s lives a “total misery”.

The six-month rule, introduced into law 30 years ago, means terminally ill people expected to live longer than half-a-year are missing out on having their benefits claims fast-tracked and simplified under special rules for terminal illness.

The government’s definition of terminal illness as being when a person’s death can be reasonably expected within six months was dubbed “outdated, arbitrary and not based on clinical reality” by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Terminal Illness in its report.

Marie Curie is now urging the new government to “find its heart” and scrap the six-month rule.

Matthew Reed, chief executive of Marie Curie, said: “The government’s own figures suggest that 10 people a day have died while waiting for PIP in the six months since the DWP announced a review.

“Tragically, we have not seen any notable progress and many more will no doubt be struggling to access other benefits such as universal credit.

“And while we have seen personnel changes at the DWP, it is now a new year, with a new government which has a clear majority, and therefore, no excuse not to act fast to stop 10 more people dying every day without the support they need. It’s time now to get this done.

“The law is already set to be changed in Scotland this year, so anyone diagnosed with a terminal illness can get fast access to devolved benefits.

“The new government should now find its heart and follow suit – dying people don’t have another six months to wait.”

The six-month rule was introduced in 1990 to exempt terminally ill people from the six-month qualifying period for the attendance allowance.

Since then, it has been extended to new benefits including universal credit and personal independence payment.

Jonathan Ellis, director of advocacy and change at the charity Hospice UK, said terminally ill people “are at the mercy of a callous benefits system that effectively puts process before people’s needs”.

He said: “It is completely unacceptable that many terminally ill people and their families are forced to endure hardship and emotional distress for months while they wait for financial support, and that in so many cases families do not receive this support until, tragically, it is too late.

“The current dysfunctional benefits system needs to be radically overhauled.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “We recognise how devastating dealing with a terminal illness can be, and the impact it can have on families. This evaluation of support for people nearing the end of life is an absolute priority for us.

“This vital work is well underway and we are working closely with medical professionals and charities like Motor Neurone Disease Association and Marie Curie.

“We are making positive changes and actively gathering all the relevant medical evidence needed to shape the proposals.”

Press Association

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in