Last July the then work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd ordered a review of the benefit rules for terminally ill people, after a cross-party group of MPs, led by Inverness MP Drew Hendry, concluded that the current system was “outdated, arbitrary and not based on clinical reality”.
The current rules mean that terminally ill benefit applicants must only have six months to live to get fast access payments. The “six-month rule” was introduced into the benefits system in 1990 to exempt terminally ill people from having to wait to qualify for attendance allowance, a specific benefit that could only be accessed if someone was ill for a minimum of six months.
However, the timescale was then extended to other benefits over time, as well as rules for accessing a terminal illness lump sum in pensions law.
We were promised a review a year ago, and we are still waiting. Families living with terminal illnesses cannot afford to wait – – they need immediate action to scrap the punitive policy. #scrap6months@MarieCuriePA @mndassoc @scrap6months pic.twitter.com/t2YV72JPlX
— Drew Hendry MP (@drewhendrySNP) July 1, 2020
Consequently, the rule became the benefits system’s definition of terminal illness by default.
Terminally ill people across all nations of the UK are being failed miserably by this Tory Government.”
Mr Hendry said the wait for action was “not good enough”, he said: “It has been a long year since we published the APPG report along with Marie Curie and MND Association and, since then we have been battling with the UK Government to do the right thing and scrap this arbitrary rule.
“Terminally ill people across all nations of the UK are being failed miserably by this Tory Government.
“Thousands have died waiting for support and their families left with debt and stress as well as grieving their loved ones.”
He added: “We were promised a review a year ago, and we are still waiting. Families living with terminal illnesses cannot afford to wait – they need immediate action to scrap the punitive policy.”
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack, responding to Mr Hendry’s comments in the Commons, said: “Universal Credit has been increased during the Covid crisis. But the point he raises about the last six months of life are points I would like to raise with work and pensions secretary.
“If he writes to me on the subject I would be very pleased to push the case for him.”