People in the final year of their lives will be given fast-tracked access to benefits under changes extending special rules to more terminally ill claimants.
Those who are diagnosed with a year or less to live will have their applications fast-tracked under rules based on a new definition of terminal illness, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said.
Previously the rules were only in place for those with six months or less to live.
Charities welcomed the decision as a “significant step forward” and a victory for campaigners who had been urging the Government to scrap the “cruel” six-month rule.
But they called for the Government to go further and offer access to anyone with a terminal condition, regardless of their prognosis.
The change follows a review, announced in 2019, after MPs said the previous definition of terminal illness as when a person’s death can be reasonably expected within six months was “outdated, arbitrary and not based on clinical reality”.
Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson said: “Being diagnosed with a terminal illness is devastating and this change will increase much-needed support for people who are nearing the end of their lives.
“The new 12-month approach will ensure people get the financial help they need as quickly as possible in the most challenging of times.
“We have carefully considered the best approach and I am grateful to everyone who has contributed to our work in reaching this outcome.”
Ministers aim to implement the 12-month approach across five benefits, starting with Universal Credit and Employment Support Allowance next year.
Matthew Reed, chief executive of the end-of-life charity Marie Curie, said: “Following years of campaigning for change, Marie Curie welcome the news today which is a significant step forward and a tribute to all those who bravely shared their experiences of the benefits system.
“This will help ensure that more dying people can concentrate on making the most of the limited time they have left, rather than worrying about their finances. Marie Curie believes that everyone has the right to the best end-of-life care and support.
“There is more to be done, but this is important progress and we look forward to working with the UK Government to bring in this change as quickly as possible.”
Sally Light, chief executive of the Motor Neurone Disease Association, said: “This is a victory for the hundreds of campaigners across the country who have worked tirelessly alongside the MND Association urging the Government to change the rules.
“Now the recommendations must be implemented quickly to ensure no more people already facing the most difficult time of their life have to wait to claim the support they not only desperately need but are entitled to.”
Mark Hughes, who has terminal cancer, said he and his wife had “dreaded” receiving letters from the DWP and he felt like he was being “punished for not dying when I was supposed to”.
The 59-year-old from Southend said: “That’s why I have been campaigning for this change.
“It is too late for me but I hope this will make a big difference to people in future, and to their loved ones, who will be able to live their final days with a greater feeling of security and dignity.”