Terminally Ill People

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons on 7th October 2019.

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Photo of Madeleine Moon Madeleine Moon Chair, Defence Sub-Committee

What progress her Department has made on its review of how the benefits system supports terminally ill people.

Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

I understand how important it is to support those nearing the end of their life, and I am taking the evaluation forward as a priority. We have made progress on all areas of the work announced by the previous Secretary of State on 11 July. As a next step, we will be holding a workshop event on 29 October to gather key stakeholder views.

Photo of Madeleine Moon Madeleine Moon Chair, Defence Sub-Committee

The Scottish Government have already done this work. They have talked to the medical profession, the third sector and patients. My Bill to implement a system in England and Wales is ready to go. Why are we not pushing ahead? Is this not just delaying the terminally ill from being able to access terminal illness benefits?

Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

I pay tribute to the hon. Lady, who has been a tireless campaigner in this area, building on her personal and professional experience. I have met with her on several occasions, including as part of this work. We want to get things right. We understand the importance of the issue, and we are doing internal research with clinicians and external research with claimants and stakeholders. We are also looking at international research, which will include what the Scottish Government are doing, and we will be concentrating on the process to ensure that it is improved. This is an important area.

Several hon. Members:

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Photo of Drew Hendry Drew Hendry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

This Government are stringing terminally ill people and their families along. They already have the evidence from stakeholders and from what is happening in Scotland. When will they do what they should for these people and their families and scrap the six-month rule, get implicit consent in place, and make the situation one of fairness and dignity for people who are dying?

Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for his work as chairman of the APPG. We do take things seriously, which is why we are doing this thorough evaluation. We are already working with organisations such as Marie Curie, the MND Association, the Royal College of Nursing, the British Medical Association, Hospice UK, the Association for Palliative Medicine, Macmillan, the Queen’s Nursing Institute and Sue Ryder. We must get the balance right so that those who should be getting fast-track access to support are always prioritised, and we will be doing a thorough evaluation to ensure that we get that right.

Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Health and Social Care)

Is the Minister aware that there can be severe financial stress for the carer when a terminally ill person dies? One of my constituents was forced into serious debt as a result of missing payments after trying to migrate from the carer’s allowance and premium to universal credit. Where is the promised ministerial guidance on this sensitive subject?

Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

Part of the evaluation is about looking at the whole process, including not only the six-month rule but the process before and after. I believe that there has been a case in the right hon. Gentleman’ constituency, so it would be helpful to have further information on that as part of the evaluation.

Several hon. Members:

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