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Thousands of dying people missing out on benefits because illnesses not deemed critical enough, warn MPs


TERMINALLY ill people and their families are ending up in debt because of an “outdated” rule that means you must only have six months or less to live to get fast access to benefits.

A damning report by a group of MPs has today called on the government to ditch its “six-month rule”, which they say was invented by politicians, and has no clinical evidence to support its use.

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The current system causes a great financial pressure and worry for the terminally ill and their families at the worst time in their lives, according to MPs[/caption]

Under the system tens of thousands of terminally ill people who may live for longer than six months are stopped from claiming benefits, such as personal independence payment (PIP), even though their condition will never improve and only deteriorate until they die.

It is impossible to know the precise number of people affected.

But government figures for 2013 to 2018 show that on average ten people died every day while waiting for a decision on their PIP benefit.

In the same five years, 73,800 people died within six months of registering a PIP claim.

Access to other financial support, such as council tax reductions, is also affected.

A spokesman from cancer charity Marie Curie said: “Housing benefit, council tax reductions and carers’ allowance are often unlocked by receiving benefits such as PIP.

“So any payment delays have knock-on effects on the receipt of those other benefits.”

The inquiry also heard how families can end up building a “debt legacy”, due to problems accessing benefits.

How to appeal a PIP decision

HERE'S how to appeal a PIP decision if you're unhappy with the response you get:

You first need to ask for a “mandatory reconsideration notice”.

This is where the Department for Work and Pensions looks at the decision again.

If you are still unhappy with this outcome, you can then appeal to an independent tribunal.

You must send your appeal form in within one month of the date shown on the mandatory reconsideration notice.

Be warned that it usually takes up to six months for an appeal to be heard by the tribunal.

If you’re unhappy with the decision you get from the tribunal, you may be able to get the decision cancelled – known as “set aside”. You’ll be told how to do this at the time.

You may also be able to appeal to the Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber) if you think the tribunal wasn’t able to give you proper reasons for its decision, or back up the decision with facts, or if it failed to apply the law properly.

While the Department of Work and Pensions’ (DWP) processes were heavily criticised for being “overly-time consuming, demeaning and insensitive”.

Citizens Advice gives an example of a terminally-ill single mother experiencing problems with Universal Credit.

She had recently been forced to stop working due to her illness and had fallen into nearly £3,000 of rent arrears while waiting for a payment and relied on friends and family to get by.

Drew Hendry MP said:”The policy is not only very hard on people living with terminal illnesses, it also causes a great deal of financial pressure and worry on their families at the very worst time in their lives.”

One bereaved husband describes having to spend his life savings to survive and now has debts of over £20,000.

He said: “My wife was terminally ill for over three years – we effectively lost everything we ever worked for.”

Mr Hendry added: “I hope the DWP will give serious consideration to our report findings and commit to ending this arbitrary six-month rule.”

A DWP spokesman told The Sun: “Terminal illness is devastating and our priority is dealing with people’s claims quickly and compassionately.

“That’s why terminally ill people can get their claims fast-tracked and access benefits without a face-to-face assessment.

“We’re looking at how we can improve our processes and in the meantime we continue to work with charities to help terminally ill people access the support they need.”


Are you eligible for a personal independence payment? We explain.

Disabled pensioners no longer have to go through repeated PIP tests to get their benefits.

We also report how a mum with crippling MS won her disability benefit battle over a £6,087 a year PIP payment.

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