Marie Curie has welcomed a letter signed by Northern Ireland political party leaders which calls for work to reform the special rules determining eligibility for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) for terminally-ill people.
Writing to the Permanent Secretary of the Department for Communities, the leaders of all of the main parties have asked for a working group to be established to look at how the eligibility rules can be changed in line with those adopted in Scotland’s new social security bill.
Under the current rules in Northern Ireland, only people with a diagnosis of six months or less to live can apply for PIP under the special rules, which allow them to access their payments quickly and without a face-to-face assessment.
In a letter published by Marie Curie in the Belfast Telegraph on June 7, 2018, 60 health and social care experts said this criteria is too restrictive and that the difficultly in predicting life expectancy for many terminal illnesses means that legitimate claimants are being excluded from applying for PIP under the special rules.
In April, the Scottish Government agreed to remove a six-month definition of terminal illness in favour of one based on clinical judgement. This means a fairer system as people who are living with a terminal illness but have a longer than six-month life expectancy and those whose condition does not have a clear trajectory, will be eligible for fast tracked benefits.
Joan McEwan, head of Policy and Public Affairs for Marie Curie Northern Ireland, said “We strongly support this call from political leaders for reform of the terminal illness rules under PIP. The current system is unfair, excludes many legitimate claimants and needs to change. Terminally-ill people deserve to be treated with compassion and dignity during the time they have left. They can’t afford to wait for the Assembly to return before work begins on creating a fairer PIP system.”