SDLP Social Justice Spokesperson Mark H Durkan has welcomed the long overdue decision taken by the Department for Communities to scrap the six-month rule for terminally ill welfare claimants. However, Mr Durkan said while welcome, there is still room for further improvement.
The move follows a successful High Court challenge in June of last year where it was determined that the different treatment of terminally ill claimants was discriminatory.
The Foyle MLA commented:
“This callous rule has caused incalculable harm to people across the North and while I welcome this move, the 6-month life expectancy rule is cruel and should have been scrapped a long time ago.
“It is despicable that people with a terminal illness have ever been put in the position whereby they have had to spend the precious time they have left battling to get support. Today’s announcement is welcome and will improve the lives of so many terminally ill people here but it is long, long overdue.
“The extension from 6 months to 12 is a positive step but we can and must do better. I would urge Minister Hargey to take a leaf from the Scottish Government’s book and consider permitting clinicians to make the call on determining whether their patients are terminally ill without worrying about arbitrary time limits. For example, people living with Motor Neurones Disease, Multiple Sclerosis and other life limiting illnesses won’t obtain a better prognosis. For them, a six-month extension won't make much of a difference.
“Instead we need to be looking at scrapping the rule altogether and base claims on medical evidence and clinical diagnosis going forward.
“I must also pay tribute to Marie Curie and the many other advocates, who have campaigned fervently for years for this reform. The SDLP will continue to play their part in fighting for a fairer and more compassionate social security system.”