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Northern Ireland to scrap the "six months rule" for terminally ill benefit claimants

30 June 2021

“Special rules”’ apply to benefits such as PIP, DLA, AA, ESA and Universal Credit.

Terminally ill people can apply for a claim under "special rules" if their doctors say that they can reasonably expected to die within six months.

However, Northern Ireland Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has today outlined plans to extend this terminal illness provision.

Announcing the reform to the Northern Ireland Assembly the Minister said:

My priority is to reform the current rules to improve the support we provide to terminally ill people.

I will extend the current six months criterion to twelve months and will bring forward legislation within this current Assembly mandate to do this.

The changes I will make will apply to all of the five social security benefits to which the special rules apply."

She added:

“This is an important step forward that will mean more people who find themselves in the devastating position of being terminally ill will benefit from fast-tracked access to financial support through social security benefits.

They will not have to go through assessments and will get automatic access to benefits earlier. 

I will keep these provisions under review and consider further options for reform in the future. This will include monitoring international best practice, reviewing the definition of special rules and looking at a clinically led model in the time ahead.”

Craig Harrison, Policy and Public Affairs Manager for Marie Curie Northern Ireland, said:

“We warmly welcome this decision by the Minister, which will help ensure many more terminally ill people get the welfare support they need, when they need it.

This will change the lives of countless dying people in Northern Ireland for the better. The legislation required to deliver this must be passed as quickly as possible and the changes monitored to ensure they are working as well as they can.”

Also commenting on today’s announcement, Susie Rabin Head of Policy and Campaigns for the Motor Neurone Disease Association said:

“This new ruling is really positive news for those people in Northern Ireland who need fast and sensitive access to vital support from the welfare system.

However, there is now a real disparity in access to benefits across the United Kingdom for people with terminal illness. This needs changing now to ensure no one has to suffer the indignity of a long, drawn out claims process.

We have been waiting two years for the publication of a review – that’s two years in which people have been dying without the financial support they desperately need. We need the Department for Work and Pensions to act right now, publish the review and scrap the outdated and frankly inhumane six month rule.”

For more information see Communities Minister Hargey to extend terminal illness provision in social security benefits available from communities-ni.gov.uk.

See also our related news story DWP failures mean dying people are being rejected for PIP.