The joint petition between Marie Curie and the MND Association (which covers England, Wales, and Northern Ireland) was signed by over 55,000 people across the UK and, if successful, could prevent a two-tier system for Scots.
Marie Curie and MND Scotland are calling for the DWPs current six-month rule to be abolished and replaced with the new Scottish definition which comes into effect in 2020.
Last year the Social Security (Scotland) Act introduced a new definition of terminal illness for the soon to be devolved Scottish disability benefits. The new definition will allow clinicians to decide who is terminally ill for the purposes of accessing benefits and will not require dying people to prove they have less than six months to live.
However, unless the UK government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) also changes its rules, then those benefits reserved to Westminster, such as Universal Credit and Employment Support Allowance (ESA), will continue to require dying people to prove they have less than six-months to live.
This will lead to terminally ill people in Scotland being able to access some benefits, such as Personal Independence Payments (PIP) fairly and quickly, but be unfairly denied for benefits administered by DWP.
Richard Meade, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Marie Curie, said: “Last year Scotland put things right by getting rid of the six-month rule. We now need the DWP to do the same for those benefits that remain reserved. Otherwise dying Scots will miss out.”
Susan Webster, Head of Policy and Campaigns at MND Scotland, said: “Motor Neurone Disease is a rapidly progressing terminal illness with just 18 months average life expectancy from diagnosis. To be fast-tracked for disability benefits and claim the maximum level of support, people with this devastating illness must prove they have just 6 months left to live.
“However, this “6-month rule” is a big problem for people with MND because it is virtually impossible for them to prove how long they have left to live, meaning many do not receive the financial support they need quickly enough. We urge the UK Government to follow Scotland’s lead and scrap the “6-month rule”.
Jim Carter, Actor and Marie Curie Ambassador, said: “It seems ludicrous that, instead of enjoying life with their loved ones, dying people have to spend time filling in forms and attending interviews with benefits advisors, or must even go to coaching sessions aimed at getting them back to work. Every day 10 people die while waiting for the benefits they need.
“That can’t be right - and is why I’ve signed the petition along with tens of thousands of other people across the UK who are urging the government to end the cruel benefit system for dying people.”
Marie Curie and the MND Association set a petition target of 17,070 signatures - one for every person in the UK who has died awaiting a decision on a benefits’ claim in the past five years.
Susan Webster | Head of Policy and Campaigns
21 November 2019
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