This week I renewed the call on the government to act quickly to improve access to benefits for terminally ill people.
In 2019 the government announced a review into how terminally ill people access the benefits system – with current regulations stipulating that in order to access benefits quickly, terminally ill people must prove they have 6 months or less to live. Those who live for longer for than 3 years whilst claiming under the special rules for terminal illness also risk losing their entitlement to benefits altogether. I brought a bill to the House of Commons last summer which aimed to commit the government to responding to its review, and implementing changes to a cruel and complex system.
Speaking in Business Questions in the House of Commons chamber this week, I said: “It has been 19 months since the Government first launched the review into a cruel benefit system that forces those who are terminally ill to prove they have less than six months to live. In that time, Marie Curie and the Motor Neurone Disease Association estimate that as many as 5,800 people may have died waiting for a decision on their benefits. Please can the Leader of the House chase the Department for Work and Pensions and the Treasury to come to the House urgently and make a statement telling us what they are going to do, so that more people do not have to suffer?”
In response, the Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees Mogg MP said “I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising this, because it is an important and troubling point. It is difficult in terms of administration because of the lack of certainty about somebody’s lifespan, but it is important that somebody nearing the end of his or her life should be treated more generously by the benefit system and not have that as an additional worry as their life draws to a close. I will of course take this up with both my right hon. Friends, as the hon. Lady requests.”
We’ve had warm words from ministers, but little movement on changing a system which is simply not fit for purpose. It’s heartbreaking that people living with terminal illnesses, and their distraught families, are forced to spend their final months together wrestling with the complexities of a deeply unfair benefits system. Working alongside charities like the Motor Neurone Disease Association and Marie Curie, I’ll continue to press the government for urgent action on this.