State pension: Terminally ill Britons call for early access to DWP sum | Personal Finance | Finance

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BBC Breakfast shared the story of Cheryl and Mark who have been struggling with costs following Cheryl’s diagnosis with terminal cancer in 2018. The couple can no longer afford to heat their home or run a car, as expenses continue to soar. 

Cheryl, 61, said: “How do we go out and make memories when we haven’t got anything to make memories with?

“We have to pull in every penny we’ve got to just pay things.”

While Mark added: “We’ve not had the heating on, even with all of that bad weather. That’s one bill we probably couldn’t afford.

“The issue for us is, if you have terminal cancer, you should get access to your pension.

“State pensions are something paid into. It’s her entitlement.” 

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The charity argues the current benefits system for working age Britons who are dying, fails to protect them from falling below the poverty line.

In 2022, Matthew Reed, the chief executive of the charity, remarked: “No one wants to imagine spending the last months of their life shivering in a cold home, struggling to feed themselves, their children, and burdened with the anxiety of falling into debt. But for 90,000 people a year that is their reality. 

“It’s a far cry from the end of life that we’d all hope for. We are staggered to see the scale of poverty among dying people. Simply put, it is shocking.

“It cannot be right that people who won’t live to pension age due to terminal illness miss out when they desperately need it simply because they are not ‘old enough’ when they die.”

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Sir Steve Webb, former pensions minister, also tackled the issue this morning on BBC Breakfast.

He told the programme: “It is absolutely essential action is taken. Whether the pension is the right way to do it, I’m not sure, there might be better ways.

“The reason I say that is because your pension depends on how much you have paid in, so if you were diagnosed terminally ill in your 30s, you might have only paid in for a few years and have a tiny pension entitlement compared to if you were in your 60s.

“That feels a bit like a lottery to me, I’d rather have a system treating all terminally ill people the same, and far better than they are being treated at the moment.”

Sir Steve instead suggested existing benefits be modified to protect the terminally ill, for example, Universal Credit.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “A terminal diagnosis is an unimaginable challenge, and our priority is providing people with financial support quickly and compassionately. 

“Those nearing the end of their lives can get fast-track access to a range of benefits without needing a face-to-face assessment or waiting period, with the majority receiving the highest rate of those benefits.

“In 2022, we extended that support so thousands more people nearing end of life would be able to access these benefits earlier through special benefit rules. 

“This change has already been implemented for employment and support allowance and Universal Credit and the Government has recently passed an act which enables similar changes to Personal Independence Payment, disability living allowance and attendance Allowance.”

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