Thank you to those who contacted me about the special rules for terminal illness (SRTI) and the Access to Welfare (Terminal Illness Definition) Bill.
I appreciate your concerns. It is crucial that people who have a terminal illness should receive support when they need it and with the minimum of stress. That is why I support a benefits system which reduces stress and anxiety for people with terminal illnesses.
As you will know, the rules for terminal illness were put in place to provide important support to people who have only a short time to live. This is achieved through guaranteed entitlement to certain disability benefits, with claims dealt with in a fast and sensitive way, and without the need for a face-to-face assessment.
The policy of a six-month timescale enables the benefits to focus support on individuals in the most severe circumstances where there is greater certainty around their prognosis. However, the six-month rule should be determined by whether there is a ‘reasonable’ expectation of how long someone is expected to live. This approach means, for example, that around two thirds of the PIP caseload who are terminally ill have been receiving benefit for six months or more.
People with a terminal illness who are expected to live significantly longer than six months are able to claim benefits in the usual way. Everyone with a terminal illness prognosis should be treated with the utmost sensitivity and care which is why staff involved throughout the benefits process receive training on how best to handle claimants in this difficult situation.
It is for these reasons that I believe there is no need for further legislative change and I hope this letter reassures you of the safeguards in place for people with terminal conditions.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.