Terminally Ill face ‘worst kind of postcode lottery’

Local MP Drew Hendry has said the UK government is wilfully failing terminally ill people. His comments follow an adjournment debate he led in the House of Commons on the issue of Universal Credit and Terminal Illness.

The Highland MP, told the DWP Minister that despite him raising the plight of terminally ill claimants several times in Parliament, and three times at Prime Minister’s Questions, the Government has failed to act to protect terminally ill people from a failing Universal Credit system.

Prior to the introduction of Universal Credit terminally ill people, with 6 months left to live or less were able to fast-track their benefit claims to ensure they can spend their last weeks and months with the support they are entitled to. Yet this has not been the experiences of those who are unfortunate enough to be terminally ill in an area where Universal Credit has been rolled out.

Mr Hendry called this the ‘worst kind of postcode lottery’ and asked the Minister to make urgent changes to rules around Terminally Ill claimants before Universal Credit is rolled out further.

He also called on the Minister to follow the Scottish Government’s lead and remove the legal definition of terminal illness, currently set at 6 months by the UK Government.

Drew Hendry MP said:

”I secured this debate to highlight one of the most heartless aspects of the shambolic Universal Credit roll out – the ongoing treatment of the terminally ill.

“Under existing UK Government rules, people with conditions such as terminal heart failure, COPD, MND and other terminal conditions need to apply for social security in the usual way and are subject to the normal assessments, including work assessments. 

“They are quite simple not considered terminal enough – this policy exposes a Tory Government at its very worst and they are wilfully failing families dealing with the trauma of terminal illness.

“People who are dying should not be forced to go to appointments with work coaches from the private sector, nor should they have to spend their last month’s fighting for much needed financial support.

“Even those who fall under the UK Governments ‘6 months to live’ definition are subjected to heart-breaking waits for their financial support.

“Others have lost the right to not to know they are dying. Under Universal Credit rules they are forced to complete the forms themselves – effectively having to answer questions “Yes, I’m dying”.

Prior to the introduction of Universal Credit, an advocacy could do this on their behalf – what possible reason would there be to remove this right?

“The Scottish Government has already shown what can be done when a Government puts dignity and respect at the heart of its welfare policies. Unlike the Tories, under the limited powers due to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, the SNP Scottish Government have opted to set no arbitrary timeframe to the definition of terminal illness. Instead, it allows the Chief Medical Officer, in consultation with Registered Medical Practitioners, to set a framework in guidance.

It is this guidance that will decide when an individual has a progressive disease that can reasonably be expected to cause that individual’s death.

“The Tories must now follow Scotland’s need and put an end to its heartless treatment of the terminally ill. I set out to the Minister the steps she can take to sort out this disgraceful mess out, and the very least she could do is implement the changes so nobody else has to suffer at their hands.”