MP seeks to change definition of terminal illness for benefit claimants

By staff writers
July 20, 2018

On 18 July 2018 Madeleine Moon MP, the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Motor Neurone DIsease (MND), presented a Bill to reform the Government’s definition of terminal illness for the purpose of accessing benefits.

The proposed legislation, the Access to Welfare (Terminal Illness Definition) Bill seeks to amend the definition of terminal illness contained in the Welfare Reform Act 2012.

The Bill would remove the requirement of “a reasonable expectation of death within six months” for people to access benefits through the Special Rules for Terminal Illness process (SRTI). This requirement is considered not appropriate for conditions like MND, where it is not possible to accurately predict how long someone will live with the condition.

For people who are terminally ill, the SRTI process is much more appropriate than the standard application routes. The process is much quicker and people can be fast tracked to the top rate of benefits, avoiding filling out lengthy forms or attending inappropriate interviews with a work coach.

Currently a doctor must submit a DS1500 for a terminally ill patient to enter the fast-track process. Mrs Moon said, "It is shocking that terminally ill people and their doctors have at times been challenged by assessors on whether a claimant has six months to live or not. Astonishingly, 13 out of 21 health care professionals who gave evidence to the all-party group said that assessors had contacted them to question the validity of the DS1500."

Because of the six month rule, most people with terminal conditions are currently unable to use the SRTI process to claim their benefits. Only around 40 per cent of people with MND who claim Personal Independence Payments use the SRTI process, whilst nearly 60 per cent go through the standard process. 

The Bill presented by Madeleine Moon MP would replace the current 'six months' definition with a clinical judgment by an appropriate medical professional.  Doctors and consultants could make a professional judgment about whether a person is terminally ill, without being restricted by an arbitrary six-month requirement. 

Madeleine Moon, whose husband, brother-in-law and mother-in-law all died from MND, said, "I cared for my husband Steve and can attest to the mental and emotional chaos of dealing with a terminal condition. The unknown time you have must be spent not worrying about benefits and accessing benefits or keeping a roof over your head, it must be spent in love, laughter and taking the painful journey together with dignity and compassion." 

Having passed through its First Reading, the Bill will now proceed to a Second Reading which is expected in November. 

The six month rule for terminally ill claimants has already been removed in Scotland.

* Read Madeleine Moon's speech on the first reading of the Bill here

* Motor Neurone Disease Association


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