Thanks to the campaigning of MND Scotland and Marie Curie Scotland, a new amendment has been tabled to the Social Security (Scotland) Bill, which would remove any time qualification for people who are terminally ill, and instead will base the fast-tracked system on clinical judgment.
Current UK legislation for disability benefits and Universal Credit specifies that the definition of terminal illness is someone likely to die within 6 months. Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman has put forward an amendment to ensure that it will be entirely down to the clinical judgement of medical professionals to identify when a person is terminally ill and this will ensure they can be automatically fast-tracked to the highest rate of disability benefits when they are devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
Ms Freeman said: “Working through the best approach to terminal illness for our new social security system in Scotland has been the most challenging aspect of this legislation. It is both sensitive and difficult because a diagnosis of terminal illness brings with it a significant impact on the individual and their family and implications for the care and management of their condition.
“Medical practitioners who make these decisions are aware of these facts and I am very conscious of the vital role that they will play in implementing this important change. And I am grateful to the medical professionals for providing their views.
“I am also grateful to everyone else involved for their very considered approach to this complex issue, and for continuing to discuss this with me. We are all determined to get this right for both the people of Scotland and our medical professionals. And, I believe that we have arrived at the right solution to ensure that people who are already in extremely difficult circumstances are able to access the maximum level of financial support they are entitled to – quickly, with dignity, and with no assessment process involved. I hope this amendment receives cross-party support at Stage 3 on Wednesday.”
Craig Stockton, CEO of MND Scotland, said: “Together with Marie Curie we have always called for a clinical judgement to be made, when defining a terminal illness for Scotland’s social security system. We are thrilled that the Scottish Government and MSPs have taken action to ensure a fairer system is put in place for those with a terminal illness. When the Bill comes into effect it will make a real difference to people affected by MND in Scotland allowing them to be fast tracked for benefits and removing some of the worry and distress that they currently face.
“I would like to thank everyone for their support on this issue and for making a real positive change in Scotland’s social security system. We will work closely with Marie Curie and the Chief Medical Officer to ensure the guidelines developed are fair and dignified for all those with a terminal illness.”
Richard Meade Marie Curie Head of Policy and Public Affairs Scotland said: “Marie Curie has always said that we would like to see a definition of terminal illness based purely on clinical judgment. We are delighted that the minister has listened to ours and other’s concerns and made this possible. We also want to thank all the opposition MSPs who have continued to make the case for a fairer definition of terminal illness.
“Scotland has a unique opportunity to make a social security system with dignity and fairness at its heart, and this newly agreed definition will be a realisation of that for terminally ill people in Scotland. We look forward to working with Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer to support the development of the accompanying guidance.”
For more information on this campaign please click here.
Craig Stockton | CEO of MND Scotland