The Work and Pensions Secretary has announced a review of the benefits system for terminally ill people.
Special rules for terminal illness mean that if someone is living with a terminal illness they can have their benefit claim fast tracked and paid at enhanced rates.
Amber Rudd said having a life limiting illness or severe condition can cause unimaginable suffering for the patient and for their loved ones.
“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,” she stated. “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.”
Rudd has ordered the department to seek the views of a wide range of people, including patients, doctors and nurses.
The review will include three strands of research: hearing directly from claimants and charities about their first-hand experiences; considering international evidence to find out what works in other nations and the support they provide; and reviewing current DWP performance to better understand how special rules for terminal illness and severe conditions processes operate and perform.
Around 500,000 people die in England each year and around three-quarters of those deaths are expected – that is they are not sudden or unexpected. There are many more people who are living with severe or progressive health conditions.
Matthew Reed, chief executive of the charity Marie Curie, said the DWP statement does not make it clear that you can only have your benefit fast-tracked if you have six months or less to live.
“Our campaign with the Motor Neurone Disease Association has highlighted too many incidents of terminally ill people being denied fast-track access to benefits because they can’t prove they meet the arbitrary rule of having six months or less to live. It is vital that their voices are heard in this process,” he argued.
He said the government should adopt the new benefit law adopted in Scotland, whereby fast and easy access to benefits is available to everyone a clinician says is terminally ill.