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DWP rule change for Universal Credit and ESA will expedite claims starting today

A DWP rule change coming today (April 4) will allow struggling claimants who are in desperate need of financial support to access benefits faster. The changes mean that people in their last year of life can receive Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance six months earlier than before.

Announcing that the changes were now in place, the Department for Work and Pensions said that from today the regulations around ‘special rules for end of life’ have been overhauled. Previously someone could apply for Universal Credit and Employment Support Allowance if they had medical evidence that they were in the last six months of their life, but can now apply for a longer period of 12 months .

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Those who are eligible will not be subject to a face-to-face assessment and in the majority of cases will receive the highest benefit rate, the DWP said.

Minister for People with Disabilities, Health and Labor MP Chloe Smith said: “Helping more people in the last year of their lives gain faster access to vital financial support is the right thing to do. I hope that by extending this support, it will alleviate the financial problems of those who are nearing the end of their lives and of their families in their most difficult times.

National clinical director for end-of-life care at NHS England, Professor Bee Wee, said: “I am really delighted to see this change which will allow earlier and faster access to financial support for people who are at risk of be in their last year of life. This extra support is vitally important for many people, and those who matter to them, during this difficult time.”

Marie Curie chief executive Matthew Reed said: “We are delighted to see this important change come into effect today for Universal Credit and ESA claimants, after years of campaigning. This will help ensure that more dying people can focus on making the most of the limited time they are gone, rather than worrying about their finances.

“Marie Curie looks forward to continuing to work with the Department for Work and Pensions to communicate this important change and ensure that all those now eligible receive the support they need quickly and effectively.”

Motor Neurone Disease Association CEO Sally Light said: “I am delighted that starting today, long-fought changes to the special rules for terminal illnesses will come into effect for the benefit of employment and support and universal credit. We now hope that more people living with complex and unpredictable terminal illnesses like motor neuron disease will be able to quickly and sensitively access the support they need through these benefits.

A person who re-apply for Universal Credit under the Special End of Life (SREL) rules could receive an additional £354.28 a month for having limited capacity for work and work-related activities from day one of his request. If eligible for New Style ESA, a re-applicant could receive the highest benefit rate of £117.60 per week from day one of their application to support them in the final months of their life .

Clinicians still have discretion under the updated rules and will be supported by “a realistic and straightforward definition, which aligns with current NHS practice”, the DWP added.

Changes to SREL will then be extended to Personal Independence Payment, Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance as soon as parliamentary time permits, the government said.

The rule change comes after an earlier update that exempts terminally ill people from having to accept a claimant’s undertaking to be eligible for benefits. A claimant’s undertaking is a set of conditions that a person agrees to meet in order to obtain government payments.

An individual’s responsibilities vary depending on their situation. For those who are able to work, this may include the obligation to seek employment.

There was previously no blanket rule preventing a person from being asked to agree to strict terms on their payments when they were in their last months or years of life. A general exemption has now been put in place and came into effect on February 15, 2022.

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