Executive should now move to change benefits system after High Court judgement, says Armstrong

The Executive should now move to change the benefits system, Alliance Communities spokesperson Kellie Armstrong MLA has said, after a terminally ill woman was awarded £5,000 for being denied fast-tracked benefits due to uncertainty over how long she would live.

The High Court awarded Lorraine Cox, who has Motor Neurone Disease, the damages for discrimination she suffered compared to others with terminal illnesses. Having been given an estimated life expectancy of between two and five years in 2018, Ms Cox was awarded the standard rate of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) because it was outside the Government’s ‘six-month’ rule, where people must prove they have six months or less to live in order to access fast-tracked benefits.

“I pay tribute to Lorraine Cox, who has not only got this terrible condition but has managed to take the fight to Government in order to access increased payments,” said Ms Armstrong.

“Earlier this month, the Assembly unanimously passed an Alliance motion calling for legislation to remove the six-month rule, which is cruel, dehumanising and humiliating, as it calls for people to prove how long they have left to live just to have access to the fast track process for PIP.

“That motion was backed by the Communities Minister, who confirmed she was reviewing the options to enable ending the requirement to provide evidence of how long a person had to live . The Minister should now look at today’s judgement and do whatever she can as soon as possible to change the system, giving them their dignity back in what is precious time for them. People should not be concerned about money at a time when they and their family have enough to deal with.”