William Eichler 13 January 2020

DWP ‘condemns’ 2,000 terminally ill people to die without benefits, charity says

DWP ‘condemns’ 2,000 terminally ill people to die without benefits, charity says image

A charity has accused the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of condemning 2,000 people in six months to die without benefits.

Marie Curie estimates that nearly 2,000 people have died in the last half a year without financial support while waiting for the DWP to publish a review on how terminally ill patients access benefits.

Last year, the Government announced that the DWP would review how dying people claim benefits following a campaign from the charities Marie Curie and Motor Neurone Disease Association and a Parliamentary report into how the benefits system fails the terminally ill.

Benefit applications and decisions can be fast-tracked if a clinician fills out a DS1500 form giving details of a person’s condition. This enables terminally ill people to get fast access to financial support.

However, the law only recognises that a person is terminally ill if their clinician believes that their death ‘can be reasonably expected within six months’.

This is not always possible and so some terminally ill people are left to face the standard benefits application process.

The Parliamentary report, Six Months to Live?, found that 17,000 people died between April 2013 and April 2018 while waiting for a decision on their PIP claim.

Matthew Reed, chief executive of Marie Curie, said that there had not been any ‘notable progress’ since this report was published.

‘The Government’s own figures suggest that ten people a day have died while waiting for PIP in the six months since the DWP announced a review,’ he said.

‘Tragically, we have not seen any notable progress and many more will no doubt be struggling to access other benefits such as Universal Credit.

‘And while we have seen personnel changes at the DWP, it is now a new year, with a new government, which has a clear majority and, therefore, no excuse not to act fast to stop ten more people dying everyday without the support they need. It’s time now to get this done.

‘The law is already set to be changed in Scotland this year, so anyone diagnosed with a terminal illness can get fast access to devolved benefits. The new Government should now find its heart and follow suit – dying people don’t have another six months to wait.’

A DWP spokesperson said: 'We recognise how devastating dealing with a terminal illness can be, and the impact it can have on families. This evaluation of support for people nearing the end of life is an absolute priority for us.

'This vital work is well under way and we are working closely with medical professionals and charities like Motor Neurone Disease Association and Marie Curie.

'We are making positive changes and actively gathering all the relevant medical evidence needed to shape the proposals.'

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