Thousands more terminally ill people will soon get fast-tracked access to benefits payments, in a final victory for an Express campaign.
For two years, our Compassion for the Dying crusade put a spotlight on the heartbreaking stories of patients whose last months were blighted by a struggle to access financial support.
Under previous rules, only those expected to die within six months could have their claims assessed more quickly. Many with unpredictable conditions were excluded.
This newspaper worked with charities Marie Curie and the Motor Neurone Disease Association to call for a more compassionate system.
Ministers heard our pleas and extended eligibility to anyone in the final year of their life for universal credit and employment support allowance last April.
The same change will now be applied to personal independence payments, disability living allowance and attendance allowance from April 3.
Minister for disabled people Tom Pursglove MP last night thanked the Daily Express for “helping to bring about positive change”.
He said: “Helping people in the final year of their lives to get faster access to financial support is the right thing to do, providing the dignity they deserve.
“Extending this support will ensure more people can concentrate on making the most of their remaining time with loved ones, rather than worrying about finances.”
Our campaign was supported by celebrities including actress Alison Steadman and Downton Abbey star Jim Carter.
Mr Carter, who is a Marie Curie ambassador, joined campaigners at Downing Street to deliver a petition with more than 55,000 signatures.
Mark Jackson, Marie Curie’s senior policy and research manager, said: “We are pleased to see these changes come into effect.
“The support of The Express and its readers for this campaign was instrumental in keeping the necessary pressure on decision-makers, which has led to such important reforms.
“By getting behind the calls for these vital changes they gave a voice to terminally ill people and supported them to share their lived experience of the benefits system.
“A terminal diagnosis should not come with the added stress of financial struggles and these changes are an important step in the right direction to ensure that doesn’t happen.
“We look forward to ongoing collaboration with the Department for Work and Pensions, to continue to improve end of life experience for all.”
Marie Curie continues to campaign for terminally ill people to be spared financial hardship.
The charity is now calling on the Government to ensure terminally ill people of working age have early access to their State Pension to help ensure nobody dies in poverty.
Alex Massey, head of campaigning at the Motor Neurone Disease Association, also welcomed the latest changes.
He said: “Living with a complex disease like MND is devastating and unpredictable, and the reformed Special Rules for End of Life process will enable more people with the disease to access the support they need quickly without the need for a face-to-face assessment.”
NHS England’s national clinical director for end of life care, Professor Bee Wee, said: “I warmly welcome the changes to the Special Rules.
“This is a truly significant step forward in improving the support for people who are likely to die in the next 12 months.
“The changes to the Special Rules will provide them with faster and easier access to much needed financial support at this difficult time in their lives, and that of those important to them.”