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Benefits for terminally ill people to be reviewed

Written by: Emma Lunn
Work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd said she wants to make life fairer for people with a terminal illness.

Rudd has asked the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) conduct an in depth evaluation into how the benefits system supports people nearing the end of their life and those with severe conditions.

Currently, “special rules for terminal illness” mean that people living with a terminal illness can have their benefit claim fast-tracked and paid at enhanced rates if they are not expected to live beyond six months.

The “six-month rule” was introduced by government in 1990 in relation to specific benefits for terminally ill people. But people who are expected to live longer than half a year are missing out on having their benefits claims simplified.

The system was described as “outdated, arbitrary and not based on clinical reality” in a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Terminal Illness published last week.

The inquiry by the cross-party committee of MPs found in cases where patients were supported in their claims by doctors, assessors from the DWP with no first-hand knowledge of the case were challenging their judgments.

Rudd said: “Having a life limiting illness or severe condition can cause unimaginable suffering for the patient and for their loved ones. Having seen it in my own family I know that the last thing you need is additional financial pressures or unnecessary assessments.

“So that’s why today I am beginning work on a fresh and honest evaluation of our benefits system so that I can be sure that people who are nearing the end of their life are getting the best possible support.

“I hope that this comprehensive evaluation of how we treat those with severe conditions and terminal illnesses will help ensure these vulnerable people get the support they need from our benefits system.”

The review will hear directly from claimants and charities, look at systems in other countries and review the DWP’s current rules around terminal illness.

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