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Stone accuses UK Government of failing the terminally ill

By Matt Leslie

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North MP Jamie Stone has hit out at the UK Government for failing the terminally ill with a "lack of action over benefits".

Six months ago, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) agreed to review the rules on terminal illness for those claiming benefits.

Currently the rules for terminal illness allow people faster than standard access to several benefits at the highest available rate – but only if they can prove they have six months or less to live.

In response to a written question asking the DWP what progress had been made on this review, the minister for disabled people, health and work, Justin Tomlinson, said: "On July 11 the secretary of state announced an in-depth evaluation of how the benefits system supports people nearing the end of their live.

"The department is taking this work forward as a priority and is seeking input from a range of stakeholders."

Mr Stone criticised Mr Tomlinson's reply, insisting that Westminster should follow the example of Holyrood and give doctors a greater say as to who should be classed as being terminally ill for some benefits.

The Government has plucked an arbitrary figure from the air.

"This response shows that the Government has done nothing to assess whether the benefits system is fit for use for those with terminal illnesses, even though it has been six months since the review was announced," said Mr Stone, the Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross.

“Many health professionals say the six-month rule has no clinical basis or evidence.

"It seems the Government has plucked an arbitrary figure from the air and is using it to decide whether people have access to benefits or not, at a time when they are needed most.

“In Scotland, legislation has been changed so that doctors will soon be able to use their clinical judgement to determine who should be considered terminally ill for some benefits. But we need this to happen across the board and across the UK.”

Susie Rabin, head of policy and campaigns at the Motor Neurone Disease Association, gave support to Mr Stone's stance,

She said: "Last year’s announcement of the review into access to benefits for people with terminal illness, including motor neurone disease [MND], gave us optimism that things would change.

"However, we have been disappointed by the slow progress so far. For people living with MND, time is of the essence.

"We need the Government to act on its promise now and speed up the review to avoid further frustration, stress and fear for people already facing the most difficult time of their lives."

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