SNP MP Margaret Ferrier has urged the UK government to follow Scotland’s lead and remove the time qualification on social security payments for people who are terminally ill.
Today at Work and Pensions Questions, the Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP asked why the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had “not yet followed the Scottish Government’s lead by removing the time qualification for people who are terminally ill” and asked what they were waiting for.
The Scottish Government included provision in the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 to introduce a new definition of terminal illness that differs from the current UK Government definition.
As the devolution of the remaining devolved benefits gets underway this year, the new definition will be used to determine whether an individual is eligible to receive Disability Assistance because they are terminally ill.
The power to make these changes to rules around disability benefits in the rest of the UK, Universal Credit and ESA remains reserved to Westminster.
SNP MP Drew Hendry has led the campaign to remove time conditions for all terminally ill people.
As chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Terminal Illness, he published an inquiry report last year into the current DWP rules that mean benefits are only fast-tracked if a terminally ill person is not expected to live more than 6 months.
The report found that the current system is “outdated, arbitrary and not based on clinical reality” and leaves terminally ill people facing “far reaching financial hardship and crippling debt.”
Charities claim that up to 2,000 people with terminal illnesses have died awaiting benefit decisions by the DWP and have called for the six-month rule to be scrapped.
Commenting, Margaret Ferrier MP said: “The Scottish Government has already shown what can be done when fairness dignity and respect are placed at the heart of its social security policies, including removing any time qualification for people who are terminally ill.
“It is time this UK Tory government followed suit because right now they are miserably failing terminally ill people and their families across Scotland and the rest of the UK.
“The Scottish Government is doing what it can with its limited powers but can only make changes in relation to disability benefits – Universal Credit and other social security payments remain reserved to Westminster.”
Drew Hendry MP added: “I have been asking the Tory government to take action on the UK benefits system for terminally ill people for a long time – the punitive ‘6 month or less’ policy urgently needs to be scrapped.
“Last year, the APPG on Terminal Illness’s inquiry report revealed that this policy leaves terminally ill people facing devastating and far reaching financial hardship and crippling debt because of ‘made-up policy fudge’ invented three decades ago – it is outdated and unwarranted.”