Over 1,000 terminally-ill patients rejected for UK benefits every year & spend final weeks fighting for aid, charities warn
Two British charities have called for the rule which requires terminally-ill people to prove they have six months or less to live to qualify for state benefits to be abolished, as hundreds every year die without support.
More than 100 people per month are being denied their lawful benefits by the UK government within the last six months of their life, the end-of-life charity Marie Curie and the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MND) said on Wednesday.
The figure comes from data released to Parliament by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) last year, which indicated that there were at least 1,860 such incidents over an 18-month period.
Marie Curie expressed “serious concerns” over the DWP’s ability to properly evaluate the condition of terminally-ill patients, saying that due to its actions, “many spend their final weeks of life either fighting for support or dying without any.”
“When somebody is diagnosed with a terminal illness, a DWP benefits assessor is not well-placed to judge how long they have left to live,” Mark Jackson, policy and public affairs manager at Marie Curie, said. “The current law plunges dying people into uncertainty – they know they are dying, but because they do not know how long they have left they can’t access financial support quickly.”
Marie Curie and the MND have been campaigning for the six months rule to be scrapped, saying that key state benefits should become accessible as soon as the patient is diagnosed with a terminal disease. In their statements on Wednesday, the charities described the current regulations as “arbitrary, outdated and amount to cruelty toward some of the most vulnerable people in society.”
They also called upon the government to finally release the findings of a 2019 review into the benefits system for the terminally ill.
“The publication of the review is well overdue and people are still struggling and suffering. It’s not good enough. We need the Government to publish the review immediately and make the changes to the system that are so desperately needed,” Susie Rabin, MND’s head of policy and campaigns, argued.
When questioned on the issue by the Mirror newspaper, a UK government spokesman said that dealing with the benefits applications of terminally-ill people “quickly and compassionately” is a priority for the authorities, adding that this work has also continued during the pandemic.
“We… are working across government on proposals including changing the six-month rule and raising awareness of the support available,” he added.