Universal Credit and Terminal Illness

Part of Petition - Royal Bank of Scotland Closure in Nairn, Grantown and Aviemore – in the House of Commons at 8:53 pm on 9th May 2018.

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Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions 8:53 pm, 9th May 2018

The hon. Gentleman has asked me to respond to a lot of questions, which I really want to do, and we have very little time left this evening, so let me say from the outset that I am happy to meet him face to face to go through anything that I have not covered to his satisfaction this evening. It is great that he has set up an all-party parliamentary group. I have worked directly with those stakeholders and charities myself, and I would be happy to meet him in his role as the chairman of the APPG to go through some of the issues. Inevitably, in the time left tonight, I am not going to be able to cover everything that I would like to cover.

I want to emphasise that, once we understand that someone has a terminal illness, we do not want them to have to fill in lots of different forms. We want them to be able to concentrate on what really matters to them in the time that they have left. I know from this debate and others that the hon. Gentleman has raised concerns about the DS1500, so it is important that I explain a little about the process to the House. Claimants and healthcare professionals use the form—it is not a claim form; it is a form—to tell us about a terminal condition. It is not mandatory for claimants to complete the form. It is an opportunity for them to tell us about their condition, and it helps us to ensure, as soon as we know that they are terminally ill, that we can waive all the requirements that are usually associated with universal credit relating to conversations with work coaches about employment. All that is waived. Right from that moment, there is a fast-track system. Once we receive the DS1500, people are immediately entitled to those benefits.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned a lack of clarity in the DWP’s handling of these issues. He has raised this matter before, and we took it really seriously. We updated the guidance—a copy was put in the Library in February—to ensure that all the medical professionals and people in the DWP understand the processes, so that people can be fast-tracked.