Amber Rudd says she may axe ‘unnecessary’ benefit assessments for terminally ill patients

Posted On: 
11th July 2019

Amber Rudd has said she will look to axe a rule in Britain's benefits system which forces dying patients to undergo health assessments.

Amber Rudd
PA Images

As it stands, terminally-ill patients are only fast-tracked to a higher rate of benefits if a doctor or nurse says they have fewer than six months to live.

The Work and Pensions Secretary said families should not be forced to face “unnecessary hardship” at such a time, as she recalled her own experience of watching her ex-husband AA Gill die of cancer in 2016.

Amber Rudd reveals major curb to controversial benefits sanction regime

MPs demand major changes to 'cruel' benefits cap

Government acknowledges problems with disability benefits and announces changes

“Having a life-limiting illness or severe condition can cause unimaginable suffering for the patient and their loved ones,” she told the Daily Express.

“Having seen it in my own family I know that the last thing you need is additional financial pressures or unnecessary assessments.

“So that’s why today I am beginning work on a fresh and honest evaluation of our benefits system so that I can be sure people who are nearing the end of their life get the best possible support.”

The Cabinet minister added that the review would amount to a “comprehensive evaluation of how we treat those with severe conditions and terminal illnesses”.

“I want people to have confidence in what we do at [the Department for Work and Pensions] and no one should be suffering unnecessary hardship at this especially difficult time,” she added.

The announcement comes after a report by the all-party parliamentary group for terminal illness found the six month rule was "outdated, arbitrary and not based on clinical reality".

SNP MP Drew Henry, who chairs the group, said: “The policy is not only very hard on people living with terminal illnesses, it also causes a great deal of financial pressure and worry on their families at the very worst time in their lives.”

Marie Curie welcomed Ms Rudd’s announcement, but chief executive, Matthew Reed, added: “The review must be focused and quick and the government must act at pace when the review is concluded.

“Every day 10 people die while waiting for benefits.”