DUP MLAs welcome progress on vital terminal illness bill

DUP MLAs Joanne Bunting and Stephen Dunne have welcomed the passing of the second stage of the Social Security Terminal Illness Bill at Stormont.

Joanne Bunting, is the East Belfast MLA but also Chairs the All Party Group on Terminal Illness.

By Joanne Bunting MLA

Belfast East

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Joanne Bunting said,

“It is not easy to talk about terminal illness, especially when someone close has lost their life but there is a duty on us as public representatives to change the law and make it better.

This legislation has cross party support and will extend life expectancy criteria from six to twelve months for those living with a terminal illness. Thus helping more families access vital supports. This is a helpful stepping stone, but ultimately a terminal diagnosis rather than a specified time period is preferable.

End of life care is so vital and that’s why back in April I brought a motion to the Northern Ireland Assembly seeking that the Programme for Government includes indicators around death, dying, bereavement and a good end-of-life experience. This Bill also fits into that agenda for change.”

Stephen Dunne is the DUP MLA for North Down and sits on the Communities Committee.

Mr Dunne said,

“Under current arrangements, the Special Rules for Terminal Illness in Social Security law within Northern Ireland allows applicants to gain ‘fast-track’ access to vital welfare payments, including Personal Independence Payments or PIP, Disability Living Allowance and Universal Credit. However, this support for those living with a terminal illness is all on the proviso that a clinician can state that their death can ‘reasonably be expected within 6 months.’

The restrictive and inhumane reality of this clause means that those who are terminally ill but not afforded the grim luxury of such a devastating timeline, may have years left of struggling mentally, physically, emotionally and financially as they deal with assessments, never-ending bureaucracy and lengthy delays to vital welfare payments.

The Social Security Terminal Illness Bill will extend life expectancy criteria from six to twelve months, a figure much more in thinking with current clinical evidence and will change it to benefit all welfare payments simultaneously. It will bring a much-needed improved alignment between welfare and health systems based as it is, on the views and experiences of claimants, charities and clinicians.

This Bill will provide a fairer definition of a terminal illness and is a step in the right direction to better support those diagnosed with a terminal illness and their families.”

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