‘When do you expect to die?’ Terminally ill benefit claimants ‘intrusively’ questioned

Reuters
Benefit assessors are asking terminally ill welfare claimants to predict when they will die, according to evidence from the new chairman of the Work and Pensions Select Committee.

Frank Field MP, who received testimony from a local constituent, wrote to Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) Secretary Iain Duncan Smith demanding an explanation.

The complaint was sent to Field via a vicar, who said two welfare claimants had submitted forms in order to receive personal independence payment (PIP) under the “special rules terminally ill” procedure.

Despite having a signed note from their doctors documenting the nature of their illnesses, the individuals were still asked when they expected to die.

My constituents tell me that despite submitting a DS 1500 form drawing attention to a terminal illness, they have been asked directly to their face whether they think they will soon die and by what date they expect to be dead,” Field wrote.

In one case my constituent’s mother was asked by when she expected her daughter to die and in front of her daughter.

“This has left my constituents feeling understandably very upset. They tell me they are appalled by the hardness of the questioning and its intrusiveness,” he added.

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Welfare claimants with terminal illnesses are not expected to meet any qualifying period for a claim, the guideline states.

The Labour MP for Birkenhead told the Guardian: “There is absolutely no need for this level of intrusive and painful questioning by DWP officials. If I have had two such cases in my constituency in recent weeks, I dread to think how often this is happening around the country.”

Field added he wished to see guidance for assessors, which allowed such insensitive questioning, and called for a full policy review at national level.

The DWP said in a statement: “Claims from people with a terminal illness are fast-tracked using ‘special rules,’ where we pay the highest rate of care immediately without a face-to-face assessment.

“All claims are dealt with fairly, sensitively and compassionately by specially trained staff – they do not ask specifics around life expectancy.”

The DWP said 99 percent of people, who were suffering from a terminal illness and applied for the benefit, were awarded the £54 per week they are entitled to.