People should not have to prove they only have six months to live to claim certain benefits, says Armstrong

People should not have to prove they only have a number of months to live before being able to claim certain benefits, Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong has said, ahead of an Assembly motion calling for an end to what she called a “cruel” rule.

The Alliance Communities spokesperson was speaking ahead of her party bringing a motion this Tuesday (October 6) calling on the Communities Minister to bring forward legislation immediately to remove the ‘six-month rule’. Under the Special Rules for Terminal Illness rules, certain benefits for those with a terminal illness can be fast-tracked if they can produce a doctor’s note saying they have six months or less to live.

The motion also welcomes a recommendation in a recent independent review of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment process in Northern Ireland that six-month life expectancy be removed from the terminal illness rule.

“This is a cruel rule which takes away people’s dignity in what can be their final months,” said Strangford MLA Ms Armstrong.

“There are many issues with it, from some people who have chronic illnesses but aren’t classed as going to die within six months, medical professionals sometimes being unable to diagnose the life expectancy, and the generally harrowing experience someone will have to go through to achieve this diagnosis in what can be the last few months of their life.

“The distress and pressure the six-month rule puts on a person, their family and medical professionals is a disgrace. The UK Government could take the lead in scrapping it but in the absence of that happening, the Communities Minister should bring forward legislation immediately to remove this cruel rule.

“It would adopt a fairer definition of terminal illness, while giving people back their dignity in what may be the last moments.”