Fast-track access to benefits extended to terminally ill people with a year to live, instead of just six months
- More terminally ill people will get financial help under the ‘special rules’ system
- These mean you might get benefits at a higher rate or quicker than usual
- Fast-track access will be extended for Universal Credit and ESA at first
- Coverage of benefits that provide help with extra living costs will be added later
- Find out how to apply below, and read our pensions guide for the terminally ill
People who are given just a year to live by their doctors will be given speedier access to benefits from next month, the Government has announced.
The change will allow more terminally ill people to get financial help under the ‘special rules’ system, which was previously limited to those expected to live for six months.
These rules mean you might get benefits at a higher rate or start getting payments quicker than usual.
Special rules: You need to get a medical professional to fill in a form that confirms your diagnosis and treatment plan
From 4 April, the limit will be extended to one year on claims for Universal Credit, which is for those on a low income, out of work or unable to work, and to Employment and Support Allowance, for people with a disability or health condition that affects how much they can work.
But the Government also plans to increase coverage to benefits that provide help with extra living costs, when Parliamentary time allows.
These are the Personal Independence Payment for adults, Disability Living Allowance for under-16s, and Attendance Allowance for people over state pension age.
To apply for fast-track benefits under ‘special rules’, you need to get a medical professional to fill in a DS1500 form that confirms your diagnosis and treatment plan.
Those who are eligible are not subject to a face-to-face assessment or a waiting period, and in most cases they receive the highest rate of benefits.
If you live longer than expected following your claim, your benefits will continue but your claim may be reviewed after three years. The Government has more information here.
What should you do with your pension if you fall very ill?
This may be no consolation, but it can relieve money woes. Read a This is Money guide here.
The Department for Work and Pensions recently carried out a review of the special rules for terminal illness, which have been in place without alteration since 1990.
The review stated last year that the special rules were an important way to ensure financial support is provided quickly and simply for people nearing the end of their lives.
‘They are intended to recognise the challenges that an individual, their family and friends face when a terminal diagnosis is made, and to ensure that the time that remains to people nearing the end of life is not taken up with completing benefit assessments,’ the report said.
But the wide range of people and organisations who offered contributions – including people nearing the end of their life who shared first-hand experiences – submitted strong evidence that the current six-month rule was not fit for purpose and should be changed.
The report said: ‘This was a consensus across all the groups we consulted. We received evidence that the six-month rule made it difficult for people with fluctuating conditions or uncertain life expectancy to access benefits under the special rules.
‘This was a particular issue for people with Motor Neurone Disease.
‘We also heard that in some situations the six-month rule was forcing conversations between clinicians and patients about their life expectancy at a time they would not have chosen to do so, which could be difficult and distressing for individuals and their families.’
Chloe Smith, Minister for Disabled People, says: ‘We want to ensure people in the final year of their lives get quicker access to vital financial support.
‘We have listened to those with a terminal illness, as well as their families and friends, and we are delivering a change that will increase much-needed support in the most challenging of times.’
Matthew Reed, chief executive of end of life charity Marie Curie, says: ‘Following years of campaigning for this change to be put in place for dying people, we are pleased to see this next step come into place for Universal Credit and ESA claimants.
‘This will ensure more dying people can concentrate on making the most of the limited time they have left, rather than worrying about their finances.’
Sally Light, chief executive of the Motor Neurone Disease Association, says: ‘This change will enable more people living with complex and unpredictable terminal illnesses like motor neurone disease to access the support they need swiftly and sensitively, without the need for a face-to-face assessment.
‘This is an important first step and we hope that this positive change can be enacted for other applicable benefits as soon as possible.’