Monday, January 20, 2020

Up to 2,000 terminally ill people have died awaiting DWP benefit decisions

Charities call for an end to the unfair 'six month rule'.

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Up to 2,000 people with terminal illnesses have died awaiting benefit decisions by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), charities have claimed.

The government announced a review into how the welfare benefits system supports terminally ill people in July 2019.

But charities have accused the DWP of dragging its feet over the review and have urged ministers to improve the system so that the terminally ill can access welfare benefits more quickly.

Under the current system, people diagnosed with a terminal illness can only be fast-tracked through the assessment process if they have been given less than six months to live.

Charities say this rule is too arbitary and discrimates against those who may live longer, whilst also calling on the government to scrap the unfair ‘six month rule’.

Photo: Paula Peters

Becky Gatenby and her terminally ill dad Anthony, who’s 63 and lives in Silsden near Bradford, have faced a four month battle to secure the benefits he is entitled to.

Anthony was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in June 2019 and given less than four years to live.

Despite this, he has been forced to attend Jobcentre meetings, even though he is housebound.

Daughter Becky, 31, said: “My father is in his last months of life. His mobility is severely impaired. His mental cognition is limited.

“He is weak and giving up and yet all this is being piled on top of him. Where is the compassion and empathy?

“A prognosis is never exact – it should not be a matter of time. ‘Terminally ill’ should be enough to ensure people receive the benefits they are entitled to now, when they need it.

“This continuous circle of stress has had an adverse effect on myself, my dying father and other people around us.

“The precious little time I have left with him has been clouded by financial worries. All I want to do is love and care for Dad.”

Photo: Paula Peters

The chief executives of the MND Association and Marie Curie have written to DWP Secretary Therese Coffey, calling on the DWP to speed up the review so that all terminally ill people can access welfare benefits from the moment they are diagnosed.

Sally Light, Chief Executive of MND Association, said: “The announcement of the review into access to benefits for people with terminal illness, including MND, gave us some optimism that things would change.

“But, six months on, we are no further forward and people are still dying without the financial support they need and are entitled to.

We need the Government to act on its promise now. Any further delay will only cause further frustration, stress and fear for people already facing the most difficult time of their life.”

Matthew Reed, chief executive of the Marie Curie charity, said the DWP had “no excuse not to act fast to stop 10 more people dying every day without the support they need. It’s time now to get this done.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “We recognise how devastating dealing with a terminal illness can be, and the impact it can have on families.

“This evaluation of support for people nearing the end of life is an absolute priority for us.

“This vital work is well under way and we are working closely with medical professionals and charities like Motor Neurone Disease Association and Marie Curie.”

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