Sunday 01 August, 2021

Terminally ill benefit claimants face financial hardship and crippling debt

Tories under pressure to scrap the "disgraceful" six month rule and fast-track benefits for terminally ill people.

SNP MP Drew Hendry has renewed calls on the UK government to urgently change DWP rules to allow terminally ill people to get benefits fast-tracked – almost two years on from a damning report that triggered a promise of a UK government review.

Under current rules, benefits are only fast-tracked if a terminally ill person has a diagnosis of six months or less to live. A bill to change this law – co-sponsored by campaigning SNP MP Drew Hendry – has been brought before Parliament.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Terminal Illness – chaired by Mr Hendry – published a report on the issues facing terminally ill people trying to access welfare support in July 2019. The report found that those affected face financial hardship and crippling debt due to a policy implemented three decades ago.

UK ministers promised a government review following the report but two years on nothing has been published.

The APPG today wrote to Justin Tomlinson MP, the Minister of State for Disabled People, Work and Health, urging the UK government to publish its review, scrap the six month rule and fast-track benefits for terminally ill people.

Marie Curie and the Motor Neurone Disease Association estimate that more than 6,000 people have died waiting for a decision on their benefits claim since the DWP announced its review IN 2019.

The Scottish Government legislated in 2018 to scrap the six-month rule for devolved benefits. However, the rule remains in place for reserved benefits such as Universal Credit.

Commenting, Drew Hendry MP said: “The disgraceful and punitive ‘6 months or less’ policy is actively preventing terminally ill people from accessing benefits and must be scrapped.

“We have been urging the UK government to take action on this issue facing terminally ill people for years.

“The APPG on Terminal Illness’s inquiry report in 2019 revealed that the ‘six-month rule’ leaves terminally ill people facing devastating and far-reaching financial hardship and crippling debt because of a policy brought in three decades ago that has no relevance now.

“UK ministers promised a review of the policy following the report – instead of action, we have been met with a deafening silence. Clinicians, social and palliative care workers and medical experts all recommend reform of this rule.

“The six-month rule continues to fail terminally ill people and their families for years – a simple policy fix would stop that.

“The UK Government must follow the Scottish Government’s lead and scrap the punitive ‘6 months to live’ policy so no one living with a terminal illness in the UK has to prove they have 6 months to live to access fast-tracked welfare support.”

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