Terminal Illness Benefits Review

By: A.C.

It is interesting that in the media a few days ago the DWP Secretary of State,  Amber Rudd, has decided to be compassionate towards terminally ill persons who have been declared terminally ill under the DWP system definition in England and Wales. 

The Guardian reports: 

“Citing her own experiences, Rudd suggested there should be reform of the current process for those nearing the ends of their lives, whose benefits are subject to special rules for terminal illness (SRTI), which have come under heavy criticism from charities. The rules mean that if a person is living with a terminal illness they can have their benefit claim fast-tracked and paid at an enhanced rate, but many charities, including Marie Curie, have campaigned for claimants not to have to prove that they have six months or less to live.”

What is the position meantime (or rather, what will it be shortly) in Scotland

“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. Therefore when making Disability Assistance Regulations under the Act the definition is: 

An individual is to be regarded as having a terminal illness for the purpose of determining entitlement to disability assistance if, having had regard to the (Chief Medical Officer’s (CMO) guidance), it is the clinical judgement of a registered medical practitioner that the individual has a progressive disease that can reasonably be expected to cause the individual’s death. 

This differs from the current DWP Social Security legislation in the UK where a person is deemed terminally ill if: ‘they suffer from “a progressive disease and their death as a consequence of that disease can be reasonably expected within 6 months’. “

The Guardian continues: “ Matthew Reed, the chief executive of Marie Curie, said it was welcome but that the Department for Work and Pensions had not made it clear that a claimant could only have their benefit fast-tracked if it had been determined they had six months or less to live.

He said: “The solution is a very simple one. It is one that the Scottish government has already taken on-board in a new benefits law: that fast, easy access to benefits should be available to everyone a clinician says is terminally ill. People should not have to wait until a clinician thinks they only have six months left to live.

“The review must be focused and quick and the government in turn must act at pace when the review is concluded. Time is crucial for dying people. Every day 10 people die while waiting for the benefits they need.”

Time is not something terminally ill people have whilst waiting for the UK Government to have a review.    

We can be grateful for what seems like sound thinking from the Scottish Government in defining the Social Security Act for Scotland. 

Then again compassion, common –sense and punitive action toward the disabled, dying or those in poverty is something that the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty Professor Philip Alston finally reported as regards the UK Government and its Welfare system.

Other links to read on Human Rights regarding disability & the UK Government

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