Home News Terminally-ill people to be granted fast access to financial support

Terminally-ill people to be granted fast access to financial support

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Until now, those nearing the end of their lives have only been able to claim under “Special Rules” if a doctor or nurse said they may have less than six months to live. But in a major victory for the Daily Express’s Compassion for the Dying crusade, the Government has announced it will extend the criteria to 12 months, which will allow more patients to have their payments fast-tracked. Charities Marie Curie and the Motor Neurone Disease Asso-ciation (MND) have fought to improve the system since 2018.

This newspaper joined the battle in January 2019 when our front page story demanded a change to the “cruel law”.

And our words were heeded yesterday when Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson announced a new, fairer and more caring system is on the way.

He said: “Being diagnosed with a terminal illness is devastating.

“This change will increase much-needed support for people nearing the end of their lives.

“The new 12-month approach will ensure people get the financial help they need as quickly as possible in the most challenging of times. We have carefully considered the best approach.

“And I am grateful to everyone who has contributed to our work in reaching this outcome.”

The charities welcomed the “significant step forward for compassion and common sense”. 

Hospital Tubes

Until now terminally-ill people have only been able to claim under ‘Special Rules’ (Image: Getty )

Once the change comes into effect, people will be able to apply under Special Rules for Terminal Illness if a health professional says they may die within one year.

This means they will start to receive payments quicker than they do now and they will have benefits paid at a higher rate.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said the change would align the definition for terminal illness with current NHS practice.

It will particularly benefit those suffering from unpredictable conditions, such as MND, a brain and nerve condition which affected the late theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking.

MND Association chief Sally Light said: “This is a victory for hundreds of campaigners who worked tirelessly for three years, raising awareness of the flaws in the system and urging the Government to change the rules.

“Now the recommendations must be implemented quickly to ensure no more people, already facing the most difficult time of their life, have to suffer the indignity of a long, drawn-out process to claim the support they not only desperately need but are entitled to.” 

The announcement comes two years after Amber Rudd, the then Work and Pensions Secretary, announced a review of the way the benefits system works for the terminally ill. She said our “heartbreaking” stories had pushed her to look again at the issue.

Ministers plan to implement the 12-month rule across five DWP benefits, starting with Universal Credit and Employment Support Allowance next year. Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment will follow “when parliamentary time allows”.

Downton Abbey star and Marie Curie Ambassador Jim Carter, who helped deliver a petition to Downing Street in 2019, said: “This is good news for terminally ill people across the UK.

“But we must remember those who have been let down in the past – and those who have campaigned, but not lived to see this result.

“Around ten people a day are dying while waiting for applications to be reviewed. I urge Gov-ernment to quickly pass into law the changes they have announced to prevent any continued punishment of people who are dying.”

Marie Curie chief Matthew Reed said he was glad ministers had listened to the doctors, charities, MPs, terminally ill people and bereaved families.

Sally Light

MND Association chief Sally Light hailed ‘the victory’ (Image: NC)

He called the change a “significant step forward for compassion and common sense” but also urged the Government to move fast.

He said: “People with terminal illness have waited a long time for this announcement. We need the change to be enacted in law as quickly as possible.”

Campaigner Mark Hughes, 59, who has terminal cancer, previously shared his experience of claiming benefits when he had to stop working as a lorry driver.

He said: “At every stage of the benefits process I was made to feel a nuisance and a cheat. My wife and I dreaded receiving letters from the DWP. I felt like I was being punished for living past my prognosis, for not dying when I was supposed to..

“It is too late for me, but I hope it will make a big difference to people in future, who will live their final days with a greater feeling of security and dignity.”

Comment by Justin Tomlinson 

IT IS devastating for anyone to be told they have an illness or condition that means the end of their life is near. For people in those tragic circumstances, and for their families, it’s important they don’t have the added worry of financial pressures.

That’s why we fast-track benefits and pay them at the highest rate when someone is sadly diagnosed with a condition that means life-expectancy is six months or less.

Since the review first began and after time gathering views of those affected, expert clinicians and a wide range of charities, it has been clear there is a need for change, something the Daily Express has backed too. I’m pleased to say that we will be changing the rules, bringing them in line with the current definition of end of life used across the NHS.

It will mean people with a terminal diagnosis of 12 months will be fast-tracked for benefits at the highest rate. It’s only right that when people go through the most difficult of times, they can access support quickly, easily and with compassion.

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