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Tenovus Cancer Care gives evidence to change the legal definition of terminal illness

APPG Terminal Illness

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Terminal Illness has published a report today following its inquiry into the impact of the legal definition of terminal illness on access to benefits for people living with terminal conditions.

The report, found that many dying claimants have to fight for financial support and wait months to receive their benefits stating that ‘shamefully, since 2013, at least 17,000 people have died waiting for the benefits they were rightfully due.’

It’s recommending, with evidence provided by Tenovus Cancer Care, that the UK Government amends the legal definition of terminal illness.

The sudden and unexpected loss of income, coupled with hidden costs, the worry, and stress of financial pressure that accompanies a cancer diagnosis all place a huge burden on people. Tenovus Cancer Care recognises this; that’s why our skilled Cancer Support Advisors are on hand to tell people affected by cancer if there’s any money they might be entitled to. So when cancer patients or their loved ones have money on their mind, they have someone to talk to. When someone is nearing the end of their life for a known reason the magnitude of these pressures are amplified significantly.

The complex warren of the benefit application process is difficult enough under normal circumstances, let alone during this period of heightened distress. The existence of a fast-track process for people with terminal illness is very helpful. It relieves pressure from individuals and their families at a time when priorities will be focussed on the time that remains; not red tape and a system that is not known for its user friendly credentials. 

However there is a common misconception regarding the six month rule. Many interpret it as someone having less than six months left to live. This neglects the important part of the rule that if it would not be unexpected for them to pass away within six months. It is difficult to put a precise end date on someone’s life; particularly in light of medical advances and the management of terminal diseases. 

In reality few clients receive a prognosis of less than six months, with many receiving a prognosis in excess of nine or even eighteen months. Some consultants are still willing to complete the DS1500 form (DWP form that confirms terminal illness) but some are very stringent.

Therefore, Tenovus Cancer Care support the fast-track process for access to benefits however we call for the ‘six month rule’ to be scrapped in favour of a revised definition that classifies anyone as terminally ill if they diagnosed with a progressively degenerative disease where death is an expected consequence.