Previously only those with less than six months to live were able to claim under “Special Rules”, meaning many with unpredictable conditions were excluded. Minister for Disabled People Chloe Smith said: “We want to ensure people in the final year of their lives get quicker access to vital financial support.
“We have listened to those with a terminal illness, as well as their families and friends, and we are delivering a change that will increase much-needed support in the most challenging of times.”
The change was first promised last summer following a three year fight by charities Marie Curie and the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
The Daily Express joined the battle in January 2019 with our Compassion for the Dying crusade, which highlighted many cases of patients let down by the system.
Our campaign argued that the previous six-month criteria was unfair and left many people with unpredictable conditions struggling financially when they should have been enjoying their remaining time with loved ones.
The change will initially only apply to Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance.
The DWP said it will be extended to Personal Independence Payment, Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance “as soon as Parliamentary time allows”.
Those who are eligible will also not be subject to face-to-face assessments or waiting periods and the majority will receive the highest rate of financial support.
Matthew Reed, Marie Curie chief executive, said: “After the announcement in the summer and following years of campaigning for this change to be put in place for dying people, we are pleased to see this next step come into place for Universal Credit and ESA claimants.
“This will ensure more dying people can concentrate on making the most of the limited time they have left, rather than worrying about their finances.”
Sally Light, MNDA chief executive, also welcomed the announcement. She said: “This change will enable more people living with complex and unpredictable terminal illnesses like motor neurone disease to access the support they need swiftly and sensitively, without the need for a face-to-face assessment.
“This is an important first step and we hope that this positive change can be enacted for other applicable benefits as soon as possible.”
Comment by Chloe Smith
A terminal diagnosis is a devastating blow for anyone and it’s important for patients and their families that in their final days they are not burdened by financial worries.
To help relieve the stresses and pressure, we provide fast-track access to benefits and in most cases pay the highest rates for those who have sadly been given a prognosis of six months or less to live.
From 4 April, I am pleased to say that we will be extending this six month period for those making a claim to Universal Credit and Employment Support Allowance to 12 months, bringing the rules in line with the current definition of end of life used across the NHS.
I hope this will bring some comfort to the thousands of people who will benefit from the changes. It is only right that those in such challenging circumstances can access vital support at speed.
I’d also like to thank the clinicians, charities, my colleagues, those affected and Daily Express readers, whose input into an evaluation of thinking in this area has helped shape a more compassionate policy for those in the final year of their lives.
• Chloe Smith is the Tory Member of Parliament for Norwich North and Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work.