MP accuses Government of ‘stringing along’ terminally ill people over benefits

Terminally ill people and their families are being strung along by a six-month wait to access benefits, an MP has claimed.

Currently, the law only recognises that a person is terminally ill if their doctor believes they only have six months to live, which means if they fall outside of this timeframe they have to apply through the usual channels for benefits.

The SNP’s Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) called for the process to be streamlined to offer “fairness and dignity” to those at the end of their lives.

Mr Hendry (pictured), who is chairman of the all-party group on terminal illness, said during work and pensions questions: “This Government is stringing terminally ill people and their families along.

“They already have the evidence from stakeholders. They have the evidence from what’s happening in Scotland.

“When will they do what they should do for these people and their families? Scrap the six-month rule, get implicit consent in place and make this a thing of fairness and dignity for those people who are dying.”

The all-party group on terminal illness said 17,000 people died between April 2013 and April 2018 while waiting for a decision on their claim.

Responding for the Government, Work and Pensions Minister Justin Tomlinson said the department takes the issues seriously and is currently conducting a “thorough evaluation”.

He added: “We have got to get the balance right so that those who should be getting the fast-track access to the support are always prioritised and we will be doing a thorough evaluation to make sure we get that right.”

He said the Government is working with charity and stakeholder organisations including Marie Curie and the Royal College of Nurses.

Earlier, Labour MP Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) called for ministers to look to the Scottish Government’s approach, where any reference to a timeframe has been removed.

She added: “Why aren’t we pushing ahead? Isn’t this delaying for those who are now terminally ill gaining access to terminal illness benefits?”

Mr Tomlinson said the Government “want to get this right”.

He added: “We understand the importance of this and we are doing internal research with clinicians and external research with claimants and stakeholders.

“We’re looking at international research which also will include what the Scottish Government is doing and we will be concentrating on the process to make sure that is also improved.

“This is a really really important area.”

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