Sinn Féin Foyle MLA Karen Mullan has criticised the Department for Communities after it rejected a cross-party request relating to a controversial element of the Personal Independence Payments (PIP) for terminally-ill claimants.
PIP currently allows for applications to be fast-tracked without an assessment for claimants with a terminal illness who have a life-expectancy of no more than six months. However, the five main parties wrote to the Department arguing that this time period was much too restrictive and should be extended to all those facing a terminal illness.
Karen Mullan said: “The response we received from the Department today is hugely disappointing and does a massive disservice to some of the most vulnerable people in society.
“We argued that the criteria should be extended to all those who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness so that they do not have to face lengthy delays for their entitlements.
“This was based on the evidence we are seeing on the ground and the hardship being caused to people facing a tragic prognosis. It is for this reason that the Scottish parliament has introduced new legislation to rescind the six month limit on definition of terminal illness which will apply from 2019.
“The parties made a simple request, asking the Department to establish a working group to engage with the Scottish parliament on this issue. We also called on the British Government directly to scrap the six month time restriction.
“I am therefore deeply disappointed that the response from the Department Permanent Secretary rejected the working group proposal.
“I am further disappointed that they cite a 2010 consultation as justification to keep this cruel restriction.
“We are in a very different environment than 2010 due to the impact of sustained Tory cuts on the Welfare system. I believe this justification is spurious and ignores the fact that many clinicians are opposing this restriction as cruel and unjustifiable
“Sinn Féin will be meeting the Department today (Thursday) and urging them to reconsider this decision which will only serve to sustain one of the most cruel aspects of the Tory welfare cuts agenda.”