DWP Slammed For 'Heartless' Denial Of Easier Benefits Claims For The Terminally Ill

Huff Post - 11 Mar 2019

Ministers have been described as “heartless” after refusing to make it easier for terminally ill people to access vital benefits through Universal Credit.

Frank Field MP accused the Department for Work and Pensions of allowing the complex benefits system to cause “considerable distress” to people with a terminal diagnosis.

In a letter to the disabled people’s minister, Sarah Newton, Field also highlights an apparent lack of transparency from ministers over benefits claims from terminally ill people.

In order to access a so-called “fast-track” to speed up their claims, current rules require terminally ill people to provide the DWP with a special form signed by a doctor which states they are expected to die within six months.

But Field, chair of the influential Commons work and pensions committee, said the current approach “can cause considerable distress to people with terminal illness and their families, and places medical professionals in a very difficult position”.

In a report last year, the committee recommended the special form be scrapped in favour of other evidence of their illness, but the DWP did not accept its recommendation.

Field told HuffPost UK: “The lack of compassion is staggering. These modest proposals could save people with a terminal illness from spending the last precious months of their life wrangling with the benefits system – and the government simply blocks them. It beggars belief that they can be so heartless.”

The independent MP for Birkenhead has submitted six separate parliamentary questions to ministers over the issue this month, but received the same boilerplate response to each.

A DWP spokesperson said: “People with terminal illnesses should receive quick and easy access to support – we fast-track claims, guarantee entitlement to benefits and waive the need for face to face assessments. 

“We are looking again at how we support people with terminal illnesses, and in the meantime we continue to work with charities – including Marie Curie and MNDA – to help terminally ill people access the support they need.

“We will respond to this letter in due course.”

Last year, HuffPost UK reported that the DWP had denied claims it had removed its option for a ‘fast-track’ Universal Credit claims process for terminally ill people.

George Bowden, Huff Post