My change to benefit rules, helping thousands of terminally ill people, comes into effect today.
A loophole in benefit rules has meant that some terminally ill claimants entitled to extra financial support have been waiting up to eight weeks before receiving it. After my pressure, the Government changed the law so that terminally ill claimants will get the extra support immediately. The change was included in the Government’s Budget and will affect about 4,000 people across the country.
The hardship being caused by the rules was raised with me by Sheffield Citizens Advice, which has supported a number of terminally ill benefit claimants who lost out on extra support.
Frances Potter, Head of Service Delivery at Sheffield Citizens Advice & Law Centre said: “Today’s rule change will help people in their final weeks receive the cash they need in time to remain as independent as possible, get their affairs in order and reach out to family and friends. It’s great to see our campaign has been understood and acted on.”
Starting today there will be a little more humanity in the benefits system for people in their final days. It will mean so much to the people affected. It could be the difference between being able to afford to travel to see a loved one for the last time or the peace of mind of settling household bills. I’d like to thank Sheffield Citizens Advice for raising this issue on behalf of terminally ill people.
- 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 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.
- 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. Until today’s change, Regulation 17 provided for PIP to be paid four weeks after the next DLA pay date. As DLA is paid at four weekly intervals, for some this meant a wait of up to eight weeks before the new award of PIP was paid.
- Paul Blomfield MP tabled 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 on behalf of Paul Blomfield by Neil Coyle MP, as one of the Labour members of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill Committee.
- Government Ministers Priti Patel MP and Justin Tomlinson MP met with Paul Blomfield, Neil Coyle and Frances Potter of Sheffield Citizen’s Advice, and agreed that claimants should receive the higher rate as soon as possible. The change was then included in Regulations laid before Parliament on 24 February that come into force today http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2016/189/made.
- The budgetary allocation for the change was contained within the Chancellor’s budget, delivered on Wednesday 16th March.
- The change will benefit about 4,000 people between April 2016 and the end of the reassessment window (the stage of moving people on DLA to PIP).