UK government scraps six-month rule on fast-tracked benefits for terminally ill people

Categories: Policy.
We changed the law! Following a multi-year campaign by Marie Curie and the Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Association  , every terminally ill person in the UK who has 12 months or fewer to live can now get fast-track access to the benefits that they need. Sarah Middlemiss, Senior Campaigns Officer, Marie Curie writes…

Receiving a terminal diagnosis can be devastating enough, but many people also find it harder to make ends meet at the end of their life.

It is vital that terminally ill people can quickly access the financial support they need. That’s why we are thrilled that, following the success of our Scrap Six Months campaign, fast-tracked access to benefits like Universal Credit (UC), Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Attendance Allowance has been extended to more people nearing the end of their lives.

A huge thank you to our campaigners

We are pleased that this change will mean many dying people no longer have to spend time wading through red tape to get the welfare benefits they need.

Terminally ill people with less than a year to live will no longer have to deal with the additional stress of form filling, attending interviews with benefits advisors and even going to coaching sessions to get them back to work – and can instead focus on making memories with their loved ones.

We would like to thank all our supporters for their tireless efforts in support of the campaign, and we are delighted that this important change has been achieved.

Working in partnership with the MND Association, we campaigned for reform to the Special Rules for Terminal Illness (‘Special Rules’) process. Our supporters across the UK called on the Government to change the process to better suit the needs of people living with terminal illnesses.

How fast-tracking works

Starting today, 3 April 2023, anyone whose health professionals think they may die within one year will be able to get guaranteed fast access to all eligible benefits. Previously, terminally ill people could only get quick and easy access to financial support if a doctor or nurse said they had less than six months to live.

This means that many people who are thought to be in their final year of life will now be able to receive vital financial support up to six months earlier.

Those who are eligible will not be required to attend a medical assessment, and in the majority of cases, they will receive the highest rate of benefits.

  Campaigners in Westminster calling for changes to the ‘Special Rules’ process

Following our campaign, the change had already been applied to all eligible benefits in Northern Ireland, and to Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) across the UK. Now the ‘Special Rules’ will also apply to PIP, Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Attendance Allowance benefits.

The Scottish Government already announced in 2018 that anyone diagnosed with a terminal illness would, in future, be able to get fast access to disability benefits, regardless of how long they are expected to live. This rule is now in use for the new Scottish Children’s Disability Payment and Scottish Adult Disability Payment, replacing PIP/DLA.

You can find out more about what the ‘Special Rules’ are, who is eligible for them, and how to apply for benefits under the ‘Special Rules’ in Marie Curie’s online guide.

What’s next?

With 90,000 people dying in poverty each year, the work is far from complete.  Time and again during the campaign, we saw how the benefits system fails to protect people with a terminal illness from financial hardship.

In addition to the important reforms announced today, Marie Curie is calling on the Government to ensure terminally ill people in working age have early access to their State Pension to help ensure nobody dies in poverty. We will also be calling for further changes to ensure all terminally ill people with longer life expectancies can get fast access to all the benefits they need.

If you would like to stay up to date with our work in this area, please sign up to receive campaign updates.

Thank you to everyone who supported this campaign by signing our petition, contacting their local representatives, and sharing the campaign online. Your support has helped make this happen.

If you’re worried about money at the end of life, please do take a look at the benefits and finances information on our website, or call our Support Line on 0800 090 2309.

   Sarah Middlemiss, Senior Campaigns Officer, Marie Curie


This blog was first published on the Marie Curie website and is reprinted here with permission



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