Rachel Woods MLA has welcomed that Social Security (Terminal Illness) Bill which was debated in the NI Assembly today (Tuesday 7th December 2021), but raised concerns that moving from a 6-month rule to a 12-month rule does not go far enough to reform the welfare system to protect terminally ill people.
The Green Party MLA for North Down said: “We have a duty to ensure that our social security system protects the most vulnerable people in our society and that people are treated with dignity. This is especially true for people with terminal illnesses, who should be protected from the stress and anxiety of facing uncertainty at an already very difficult time.
“I have assisted constituents who were not able to process their PIP application under the 6-month rule, and on two occasions were refused because they were deemed ‘not terminal enough’. Both were going through cancer treatment, and were asked to come to the assessment centre when neither physically or mentally would be able to.
“The current ‘6-month rule’ is arbitrary and unfair, and results in many terminally ill people being deemed ineligible for the social security payments they are entitled to. Whilst I welcome this Bill to scrap the ‘6-month rule’, I do have concerns that simply replacing it with a 12-month timescale will not achieve the holistic change which is needed.
“The Scottish Government has moved to remove the timescale altogether, and in 2019, it was the recommendation from the Work and Pensions Committee, and the Westminster APPG on Terminal Illness. It should be up to medical practitioners to deem a condition suitable for fast tracking, not up to a timeline. Two independent reviews, and organisations like Marie Curie Northern Ireland, have recommended that the Department for Communities introduce a similar approach here.
“Whilst I am disappointed that this Bill doesn’t scrap the timescale altogether, to ensure that terminally ill people are adequately protected, I am glad to see this as a 'first step' towards further reform.”
Media contact: Jack O'Dwyer-Henry (07504410770)