Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield has secured a change to benefit rules which will help terminally ill people in their final days.
A loophole in new benefit rules means some terminally ill claimants who are entitled to a higher rate of support are having to wait up to eight weeks before that support is provided. Mr Blomfield put forward an amendment to the Government’s Welfare Bill to close the loophole. The Government agreed to amend the Bill in line with Mr Blomfield’s proposals.
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.
Paul Blomfield said:
“I’m pleased to have secured this reform which will bring humanity to the benefit system for people in their final days. It will cost the Government very little, but will make a huge difference 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 reform the benefit rules. I want to commend the work of Sheffield Citizens Advice in raising this issue on behalf of people in very difficult situations.”
Carol Ingram, 59, a Sheffield woman who was diagnosed with terminal cancer in May 2015, missed out on over £825, because she had to wait six weeks before she could receive her enhanced benefit.
Mrs Ingram said: “I am so pleased to hear that the government have decided to fix this problem. Although it won’t help me personally I’m just glad other people in my situation won’t have to wait to get that extra support they need.”
Frances Potter, Head of Service Delivery at Sheffield Citizens Advice & Law Centre, said: “I’m delighted that the government has recognised that these rules needed to be corrected to reflect the special circumstances facing people with terminal illness. This has been a team effort between our staff in Sheffield Citizens Advice and many colleagues in Citizens Advice offices across the whole country who have echoed our concerns based on difficult cases they have seen for themselves. Those individuals who have been affected can at least be reassured that others won’t have to suffer the same difficulties.”
Notes for Editors
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is the new benefit for severely disabled people with personal care needs and/or problems with getting about. Some claimants with disabilities who are already on the older benefit Disability Living Allowance (DLA) are now being moved over to PIP. However this is a gradual process which the DWP say will not be completed until October 2017.
- Like DLA, PIP has a “special rules” provision for terminally ill claimants where a doctor, or other relevant health care professional, certifies that death can be reasonably expected within 6 months. Under the “special rules” provisions the claim is fast tracked, qualifying periods are waived and the highest rate of the PIP daily living component is awarded (currently £82.30 per week) even in cases where no care is needed. This provides quick financial support at what, for many, is a highly distressing time. The mobility component of either £21.80 or £57.45 per week can be awarded in addition subject to meeting the disability qualifying conditions. For new PIP claimants payment is awarded from the date of claim.
- However, where a claimant is already disabled or in poor health and in receipt of DLA, the date the PIP award takes effect is subject to the Personal Independence Payment (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2013. In all cases, Regulation 17 provides for PIP to be paid four weeks after the next DLA pay date. As DLA is paid at four weekly intervals, for some this can mean a wait of up to eight weeks before the new award of PIP is paid.
- Paul Blomfield MP proposed a New Clause to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill to enable claimants of DLA who are transferred to PIP due to terminal illness to receive their first PIP payment immediately after being transferred.
- Paul Blomfield’s 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.
- 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.
- Government Ministers Priti Patel MP and Justin Tomlinson MP met with Paul Blomfield and Neil Coyle and agreed to amend the Bill so that claimants will receive the higher rate as soon as possible.
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.