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MP bidding to scrap six months law on benefits for the terminally ill

By Alasdair Fraser

Marie Curie;
APPG for Terminal illness AGM;
Wilson Rm, Portcullis Hse, Westminster.
11th February 2020.© Pete Jones
Marie Curie; APPG for Terminal illness AGM; Wilson Rm, Portcullis Hse, Westminster. 11th February 2020.© Pete Jones pete@pjproductions.co.uk

HIGHLAND MP Drew Hendry is stepping up his campaign to make it easier for dying people to access the right benefits.

In 2016, after learning of difficulties faced by terminally-ill constituents in accessing the correct level of financial support, the SNP member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey set up a cross-party group of MPs to examine the problem.

Since then, he has worked closely with charities including Marie Curie and Motor Neurone Disease Association to launch a #Scrap6Months campaign to change the law.

Currently, a dying person must prove they have six months or less to live in order to access benefits quickly, and at a higher tier.

It can be a lengthy process, during which the individual must undergo fitness-to-work assessments and, in certain cases, prove they are actively looking for employment.

Mr Hendry believes people should get fast-track access to benefits once a doctor confirms they have a terminal illness, given how reliant they can be on financial support while unfit for work or through an associated increase in living costs.

The MP claims the six-month rule has no clinical basis or evidence, given that estimating how long someone will live is difficult.

He says many healthcare professionals don’t feel comfortable saying someone has six months left to live.

Mr Hendry, who has now been re-elected as chair of the all-party parliamentary group for terminal illness (APPG), said: “In a caring, compassionate society dying people should receive all the support available to live with dignity and to make the most of the time they have left.

“No-one who is at the end of their life should have to spend time jumping through hoops or worrying how to make ends meet.

“In the report launched by the APPG for terminal illness last July, we found that the current system to access benefits while dying is outdated, arbitrary and not based on clinical reality.

“We’re determined to ensure that terminally ill people get fair access to the benefits system and are treated with dignity and respect.

“The Scottish Government has already provided the answer by confirming it will do away with the six-month rule when it takes over Personal Independence Payments – instead, opting to rely on clinical advice.

“The UK Tory government must follow suit because right now they are miserably failing terminally ill people and their families across Scotland and the rest of the UK.

“These people need more than warm words from the UK Government – they need immediate action to scrap the punitive policy.”

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