Last week, there was some rare welcome news from the UK Government on my #scrap6months campaign to improve access to welfare support for people living with terminal illnesses.
As some of you may recall, back in 2017, I set up a cross-party group on Terminal Illness after hearing about the horrific treatment my constituent received from the DWP. Despite having being diagnosed with a terminal illness, they couldn’t get fast-tracked access to welfare support because they couldn’t prove that they only had six months to live. Just imagine how that felt, having just received a terminal illness diagnosis.
Their plight had been brought to my attention by the Macmillan CAB team at Raigmore, who are relentless advocates for those they support. I have worked closely with Elaine Donnelly and the rest of the MacMillan CAB team on several issues since 2015. Their passion and determination to help people near the end of their lives is unfaltering. They are unsung heroes and I want to take this opportunity to thank them for all they do.
In taking the issue on behalf of my constituents to Parliament, I found out that thousands of people had the same experience with the welfare system. Working with Marie Curie, we launched an inquiry and forced the UK Government to review the system. We have been waiting two long years for the outcome of that review, and yesterday the Minister announced that they would extend the end of life fast-tracked support to those with a diagnosis of 12 months or less to live. While this doesn’t go far enough – the arbitrary timescales need to go – this move will ensure thousands of people living with a terminal illness will now get access to support. I’m incredibly proud of the work we have done on this, and we will keep on the case.
These sorts of wins are rare, but they do make such an incredible difference to people’s lives. However, the fact remains that if these decisions were made in Scotland, this rule would not have existed. You don’t need to take me at my word on that; two years ago, when faced with the question of how it would deal with this rule when it takes over Personal Independence Payments, the Scottish Government decided to remove the rule in its entirety. This is the difference when you build a social security system with dignity at its core.
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