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Terminally ill benefits claimants to be exempt from work search requirements

·2-min read

Terminally ill benefits claimants in Britain will not have to demonstrate that they are taking measures such as looking for work in order to receive support, the Government has said.

Chloe Smith, minister for disabled people, health and work, said people with terminal illnesses will not have to agree to take certain steps in exchange for receiving benefits.

This is known as a claimant commitment, and could include an individual agreeing to look for work, increase their earnings or report any change in their circumstances.

Currently anyone claiming benefits under the Special Rules for Terminal Illness is exempt from needing to search for work, but there is no blanket exemption for terminally ill people to accept a claimant commitment more generally.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is introducing an amendment to existing regulations “to streamline the process and provide certainty to those approaching the end of their lives”, Ms Smith said.

This will come into force on February 15 across Britain, with the Northern Ireland Assembly expected to mirror the move.

Ms Smith also said the Government will “shortly” bring forward regulations extending the special rules to more terminally ill claimants.

Last summer the Government said claimants who are diagnosed with a year or less to live will have their applications fast-tracked under the special rules based on a new definition of terminal illness.

The rules are currently in place for those with six months or fewer to live.

The changes will apply to people claiming Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance.

Changes to Personal Independence Payment, Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance will be made “when parliamentary time allows”.

Mark Jackson, policy manager at the end of life charity Marie Curie, said: “Dying people should be properly supported by the benefit system, not dehumanised and made to jump through hoops to get the support they need. For these reasons we welcome the changes being announced today.

“Next, the Government must deliver on its promise to reform the ‘six-month rule’ for Universal Credit by April, and then introduce the same changes for Personal Independence Payments and other benefits. We must see this in this year’s Queen’s Speech.

“For them to simply offer ‘when parliamentary time allows’ as a timeframe is letting down the many terminally ill people who will now not live to see the change they and their loved ones campaigned for.

“And for each further day that passes, more people are at risk of dying without the benefits they need.”

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