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Thursday, 19 July 2018

Emotional scenes as Bridgend MP calls for law change on terminal illness definition

Written by Harriet Line

An MP choked back tears as she called for a change in the law to allow doctors to determine whether someone is terminally ill so they can get fast-tracked access to benefits.

Labour's Madeleine Moon said current rules were too restrictive, arguing that allowing a clinical judgment to determine when a person is terminally ill would create a fairer and more compassionate system.

The Bridgend MP welled up as she told the Commons she understood the difficulties of dealing with a terminal illness, and said her husband, brother-in-law and mother-in-law all died from Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

Moving her Access to Welfare (Terminal Illness Definition) Bill via a 10-minute rule motion, she said: "I spent many years helping terminally ill people claim benefits before coming to this House - I cared for my husband Steve and can attest to the mental and emotional chaos of dealing with a terminal condition.

"The unknown time you have must be spent not worrying about benefits and accessing benefits or keeping a roof over your head, it must be spent in love, laughter and taking the painful journey together with dignity and compassion."

MPs clapped Mrs Moon as she concluded her remarks.

She said the current definition of terminally ill is that a person suffers from progressive disease and the person's death as a consequence of that disease can reasonably be expected within six months.

"A prognosis of having six months or less to live is needed for a clinician to issue a DS1500, allowing claimants to apply for benefits under the special rules for terminal illness provision," she explained.

"Special rules enable access to disability benefits quickly by fast-tracking applications to the highest level of benefits payments - an issue of paramount importance for people with limited time to live."

Mrs Moon added: "My Bill recognises that the six months eligibility criteria to access the DS1500 is far too restrictive."

The proposed legislation seeks to amend the definition of terminal illness in the Welfare Reform Act 2012.

She said identifying people with MND who are likely to die quickly was "impossible", but added: "Allowing medical professionals to determine whether an illness is terminal would give terminally ill people a chance to access the benefits they need quickly and with dignity."

Ms Moon described the proposed law change as "modest", though said it had the potential to help many, adding that it reflects changes to the definition in Scotland.

The Bill was listed for a second reading on November 23 but is unlikely to become law in its current form without Government support or sufficient parliamentary time.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: "We're determined to ensure that people living with terminal illnesses get the support they need through this difficult time.

"People who are terminally ill can get their claim fast-tracked, automatic access to benefits and, for those claiming ESA or Universal Credit, have their work-related requirements waived."

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