Give dying people early access to state pension, Government is urged


Terminally ill people should be able to take their state pensions early to prevent many from spending their last year in financial difficulties, a charity is urging the government.

It would cost £114.4 million a year, or 0.1 per cent of the annual state pension bill, to lift about 8,600 dying people out of poverty each year, says Marie Curie.

People who die while still of working age are twice as likely to fall into poverty as people who have reached state pension age, according to a study by a university think tank conducted for charity.

State pension: Marie Curie calls on government to relax rules to help dying working-age people

State pension: Marie Curie calls on government to relax rules to help dying working-age people

People of working age who have one year left to live pay national insurance contributions for a state pension for an average of 24 years, the study found.

But Marie Curie says many are driven into poverty because the benefits available to working-age adults “are just not fit for purpose.”

>>>’We survive on credit cards’: read the story of 61-year-old cancer patient Cheryl below

“The state pension is the most effective protection against poverty in our social security system,” said Mark Jackson, senior policy and research manager at Marie Curie.

“But no matter how long they have paid, people with a terminal illness of working age are denied this security.

“We are providing the government with a solution that can be implemented at an affordable cost to the state. In fact, the costs could be almost fully covered by savings realized by simply reducing DWP overpayment errors.”

The charity is calling on the government to include the measure in its spring budget in March.

How much is the state pension?

The full state pension is currently £185.15 a week and will increase to £203.85 a week or £10,600 a year in April.

People who retired on a full basic pension before April 2016 will receive £141.85 per week, and this will rise to £156.20 per week or £8,120 per year in April.

The old basic rate is supplemented with additional AOW entitlements – S2P and Serps – if these have been earned in working years.

The government responded that it remains committed to a universal state pension age, and last year extended accelerated access to benefits for many more terminally ill people – see its statement below.

The state pension age is 66 and will increase to 67 between 2026 and 2028. The time of the next AOW increase to age 68 is still being determined by the government.

Two options for giving people of working age with one year to live early access to state pensions were explored by the Center for Research in Social Policy, based at Loughborough University.

An income-related option would look at the NI data of people with a terminal illness and apply for state pension on that basis.

If their household income is still below the level at which they qualify for a pension discount, it will be supplemented to meet it.

A universal option would allow anyone with a terminal illness to claim the full state pension, while cutting any means-tested disability benefits they received.

Each scenario is modeled for people in the last 12 months of life, but some causes of death such as accidents, pregnancy, childbirth and certain infectious diseases are excluded.

Dr. Juliet Stone, who conducted the study, says: ‘Our analysis of poverty at the end of life produced the shocking finding that an estimated 90,000 people die in poverty each year and that the risk of poverty is heavily concentrated among people who die before the retirement age.

“This latest work shows that the simple and cost-effective measure of giving people of working age with terminal illness access to state pensions can be a highly effective policy to reduce the risk of poverty for people at a time when they are already extremely being vulnerable. both personally and financially.’

“Cheryl has worked all her life, and now she gets nothing”

Marie Curie tells the story of Cheshire couple Cheryl Whittaker, 61, and her husband Mark, who have struggled financially since she was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Mark says: ‘The oncologist really just said, just go enjoy the rest of your life together while you still can, which was traumatic in itself. Financially things are as dire as the cancer, we survive on credit cards.

Our bills are too high. Cheryl is now incontinent, so I have a lot of extra washing to do. Her neuropathy affects the feet and toes, so she’s always cold, but once she starts shivering, it’s hard to stop her. Sometimes I just sit in bed with her and try to warm her up again.

“We had to cut back on everything. Our bank account has been over £2,000 for almost a year now. And we get charged £600 a year for that.

“Emotionally, if things don’t go well, it’s too much. I cried alone in the living room. The lack of government support makes us feel worthless.

“Getting access to Cheryl’s state pension would change everything. Cheryl’s worked all her life, 30 years in a leadership role, and now she’s getting nothing.

“Giving her access to her state pension would give us some dignity back. It would give us our independence.’

Helen Barnard, deputy director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, says: “It is simply wrong that so many people end their lives in deprivation.

“Families are forced to feel all the stress and guilt of not being able to put them at ease, instead of being able to spend the last few days, weeks or months with their loved ones.

“We all agree that we need to ensure that dying people are protected from poverty, and this is an eminently affordable way to do the right thing.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Work and Pensions said: ‘A terminal diagnosis is an unimaginable challenge, and our priority is to provide people with prompt and compassionate financial support.

“Those approaching the end of their lives can quickly access a range of benefits without the need for an individual assessment or waiting period, with the majority receiving the highest percentage of those benefits.

“In 2022, we extended that support so that thousands more people approaching the end of life could access these benefits earlier through special benefit rules.

“This change has already been made to the Work and Support Allowance and to Universal Credit and the government has recently passed a law allowing for similar changes to Personal Independence Allowance, Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance.”

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