Almost 2,000 terminally ill people died waiting for decision on benefits, charity says

UK government had promised to review ‘not fit for purpose’ benefits system last July

UK government had promised to review ‘not fit for purpose’ benefits system last July

Charity’s statement concerns access to Personal Independence Payments (PIP). Picture: Alamy

Almost 2,000 terminally ill people in the UK have died while waiting for a benefits review promised by the government, a charity has estimated.

Marie Curie based its figure on data from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP); the charity claims that, in the six months since the DWP announced a review of the benefits system for terminally ill people, an average of 10 people a day have died while waiting for a decision on their Personal Independence Payment (PIP) claim.

Criticism for ‘six-month rule’ on terminal illness

The promised review was prompted by a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Terminal Illness, which warned that the benefits system was not fit for purpose.

The current system is based on the six-month rule, which defines terminal illness as being when a person’s death can be reasonably expected within six months. 

This means terminally ill people who are 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The parliamentary group’s report said the six-month rule was outdated, arbitrary and not based on clinical reality. 

The then work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd said no one should suffer unnecessary hardship after charities told MPs the struggle to access benefits was making people’s lives a ‘total misery’.

    Charity says there is ‘no excuse not to act fast’ on benefit reform

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

    Marie Curie chief executive Matthew Reed said: ‘Tragically, we have not seen any notable progress and many more people 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.’

    The law is set to be changed in Scotland this year, Mr Reed said, ‘so that anyone diagnosed with a terminal illness can get fast access to devolved benefits’.

    Government says benefit system review is ‘an absolute priority’

    A DWP spokesperson said the review was under way and that it was working closely with healthcare professionals and charities.

    ‘This evaluation of support for people nearing the end of life is an absolute priority for us,’ the spokesperson added.

    Read the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Terminal Illness report

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