Armstrong calls on Finance Minister to allocate money for reform of ‘six-month’ rule

Communities Kellie Armstrong Finance Welfare

Alliance Communities spokesperson Kellie Armstrong MLA has called on the Finance Minister to consider allocating money to reform the controversial ‘six-month’ rule for terminally ill people.

As part of a cross-party letter, MLAs wrote to Conor Murphy to urge him to give the Department for Communities (DFC) £2 million to progress reform of the Special Rules for Terminal Illness in the final Executive Budget. Under the rules, certain benefits for those with a terminal illness can be fast-tracked but only if they can produce a doctor’s note saying they have six months or less to live, meaning many miss out.

“Reform of the rules has been supported by every party in the Assembly and a number of independent reviews,” said Ms Armstrong.

“Last year, the difference in treatment for terminally ill welfare claimants who cannot reasonably meet the six month life expectancy criterion was ruled to be discriminatory by Belfast High Court. People are forced to endure long waiting times, distressing assessments and extensive paperwork to access their welfare payments. The protracted nature of the application process means some die before they receive their first payment.

“The DFC commitment to reforming the rules is welcome, but I and the other signatories of this letter are concerned their funding bid remaining unallocated means terminally ill people will have to wait even longer to see this much-needed change. The DFC has confirmed as no funding has been provided to deliver on commitments, work will have to be stopped or significantly curtailed.

“Time is a luxury terminally ill people do not have, so we are urging the Finance Minister to allocate the £2 million requested by DFC to progress reform of the special rules.”