Social Security (Special Rules for End of Life) Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:40 pm on 8th September 2022.

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Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Assistant Whip, The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 2:40 pm, 8th September 2022

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. We want to get the greatest amount of support as simply as possible to those who need it the most. To that end, my officials and I have been having extensive conversations with the Scottish Government. We would very much have preferred them to agree to a simpler way to ensure that we get the relevant details and the relevant paperwork. But, of course, this is not fundamentally about paperwork: we need to work together to get that support across both the reserved and the devolved benefits to those who need it most.

We are talking about thousands more people at the end of their lives who will be able to access the three benefits in the Bill and others in secondary legislation. We want a consistent end of life definition across health and welfare services that can be more easily understood by clinicians, end of life charities and patients. The alignment of the definition will allow clinicians in particular to include discussion of welfare benefits in wider conversations about what matters most to their patients, which will, in turn, be more responsive to their needs. We have already touched on how we hope that means that clinicians will be better supported by a more straightforward and simple definition.

Once the Bill is fully rolled out, between 30,000 and 60,000 more people may benefit from the special rules process each year. My Department recognises that it is essential that people are aware of and understand the changes. That is why there has been that extensive engagement that I referred to in response to my hon. Friend Michael Fabricant with key end of life charities, hospices, medical organisations and clinical groups such as the royal colleges.

I pay tribute to the many people who have supported this work since the launch of the evaluation of how the benefits system can better support people nearing the end of their lives. Their expertise and personal experience has been crucial in better informing and enabling the important changes in the Bill. I pay tribute to all those who support patients at the end of their lives, and I am sure we would all agree that it is crucial when someone reaches the final stage of their life that they have that support. By passing the Bill today, we will provide thousands more people with vital financial support so that they can worry a little less about their finances and focus more on sharing the valuable time they have left with the people who matter most to them.