Friday 16th October - The Government today pledged to consider changing benefit rules to help support terminally ill people in their final days, following pressure from Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield.
A loophole in the benefit rules means terminally ill claimants who are entitled to a higher rate of support are having to wait up to eight weeks before that support comes through. Mr Blomfield put forward an amendment to the Government’s Welfare Bill designed to close the loophole.
The hardship being caused by the current situation was raised with Mr Blomfield by Sheffield Citizens Advice, which has supported a number of terminally ill benefit claimants who may not live long enough to receive their award.
During a debate on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill in Committee today, Employment Minister, the Rt. Hon. Priti Patel MP agreed to look further into what changes might be needed to remedy the situation.
Speaking after the debate today, Paul Blomfield said:
“This amendment is designed to bring humanity to the benefit system for people in their final days. The change would cost the Government very little, but would mean the world to the people affected. It could be the difference between being able to afford to travel to see a relative for the last time or the peace of mind of settling household bills before passing.
“I therefore welcome the Government’s promise to look into this unintended consequence of the way the benefit rules are working. I want to commend the work of Sheffield Citizens Advice in raising this issue on behalf of people in very difficult situations. I will hold the Government to account on its promises today to secure this relatively simple change as soon as possible.”
Notes for Editors
1. Paul Blomfield MP proposed a New Clause to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill to enable claimants of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) who are transferred to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) due to terminal illness to receive their first PIP payment immediately after being transferred. Currently claimants must wait four weeks from their final DLA payment to be made and then another four weeks to receive their first PIP payment. (See New Clause 4 here).
2. Claimants already in receipt of DLA can immediately access an expedited process to the higher rate benefit following a terminal diagnosis. The New Clause would have brought claimants transferring to PIP in line, so that they too would start receiving the higher rate as soon as possible after the terminal diagnosis has been communicated by the claimant’s medics to the DWP, rather than having to wait up to 8 weeks.
3. The amendment was moved by Neil Coyle MP, as one of the Labour members of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill Committee, on behalf of Paul Blomfield.
4. At the end of the Committee Stage debate in the House of Commons today, New Clause 4 was withdrawn, following a commitment from Employment Minister Rt. Hon. Priti Patel MP to engage with Paul Blomfield MP and other Labour MPs to find a solution to the problem.
For further comment, and to be put in touch with Citizens Advice advisers who have helped terminally claimants affected by the current situation, please call Paul Blomfield MP’s office on 0114 272 2882.