Drew Hendry MP (pictured) has renewed calls for the UK Government to change DWP rules to allow all terminally ill people to get benefits fast-tracked.
Under current rules, benefits are only fast-tracked if a terminally ill person has a diagnosis of 6 months or less to live.
According to Marie Curie, data from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), shows an average of 10 people a day died while waiting for a decision on their Personal Independence Payment claim over five years.
A situation that has been exasperated further because of the health crisis and the pressure put on the system.
During Scotland Questions, Mr Hendry urged the Secretary of State for Scotland to raise the issue with colleagues in the Department of Work and Pensions to allow all terminally ill people to access fast-tracked benefits – not only those with 6 months or less to live diagnosis.
A year ago, almost to the day, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Terminal Illness – chaired by Mr Hendry – launched a damning report on the plight of terminally ill people trying to access welfare support.
The report triggered the UK Government to promise a review, but according to Mr Hendry, there has been nothing but ‘silence since’.
According to the report, terminally ill people face devastating and far-reaching financial hardship and crippling debt, because of a ‘made-up policy fudge’ invented three decades ago.
The damning inquiry also found that the current benefits system rule that you must only have six months or less to live to get fast access to benefits is ‘outdated, arbitrary and not based on clinical reality’.
In Scotland, the SNP government has already introduced reforms to ensure anyone diagnosed with a terminal illness can get fast access to devolved benefits.
While this will help people claiming Personal Independent Payments, Universal Credit and other benefits remain reserved to the UK Government.
Commenting, Drew Hendry MP, said:
“It has been a long year since we published the APPG report along with Marie Curie and the MND Association and, since then we have been battling with the UK Government to do the right thing and scrap this arbitrary rule.
“Terminally ill people across all nations of the UK are being failed miserably by this Tory Government.
“Thousands have died waiting for support and their families left with debt and stress as well as grieving their loved ones.
“The ‘six-month rule’ severely restricts access to vital financial support for many terminally ill people, whose condition will never improve and only deteriorate until they die, but who may live for longer than six months.
“The APPG’s inquiry showed that the ‘six-month rule’ definition of terminal illness – used extensively to determine how quickly someone gets access to benefits – was invented by politicians, and has no clinical evidence to support its use.
“It needs to go now.
“The Scottish Government has provided them with the answer by confirming they will do away with the 6-month rule when it takes over Personal Independence Payments – instead, opting to rely on clinical advice.
“However, the Scottish Government will not have this power to make these changes to rules around Universal Credit which remains reserved to the UK Parliament.
“The UK Government must follow suit because right now they are miserably failing terminally ill people and their families across Scotland and the rest of the UK.
“We were promised a review a year ago, and we are still waiting.
“Families living with terminal illnesses cannot afford to wait – they need immediate action to scrap the punitive policy.”