DWP urged to give early access to State Pension payments for dying people of working age

An open letter to the UK Government has gathered huge support with its call to give dying people of working age early access to their State Pension.

Over 21,000 people have joined the end-of-life charity, Marie Curie, in writing to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mel Stride, highlighting that terminally ill people are experiencing financial hardship due to their terminal diagnosis. Famous faces among the 21,645 signatories include actor Josh Whitehouse, activist and journalist Catherine Mayer, broadcaster Janet Ellis, classical singer Camilla Kerslake and her husband, former English rugby union player Chris Robshaw.

You are reading: DWP urged to give early access to State Pension payments for dying people of working age

In December, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said it has no plans to allow people diagnosed with a terminal illness to access their State Pension prior to retirement age, even if they have accrued sufficient National Insurance Contributions.

The official age of retirement is 66 for both men and women and at least 10 years’ worth of National Insurance Contributions are needed for any State Pensions payment.

Mark Jackson, Marie Curie Senior Policy and Research Manager, said: “Our research has revealed that one in four people who die during working age spend the last year of their life in poverty.

“At Marie Curie we see first-hand the impact that poverty has on dying people, and this lack of warmth and nutritious food can cause their condition to deteriorate quicker.

“Terminally ill people need more financial support from the Government, so we have written an Open Letter to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions asking him to meet with us to discuss our solution to ending poverty at the end of life: extension of the State Pension to working age dying people.

“Granting dying people of working age their State Pension would be a truly transformative but affordable change and our research also shows that there is widespread public support. This legislation must be given priority in the Spring Budget.”

Research from Loughborough University, funded by Marie Curie, shows that giving this group early access to their State Pension could almost halve their rate of poverty across the UK, lifting more than 8,600 dying people out of poverty every year.

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The cost of introducing this change, £114.4 million per year, is 0.1% of the annual State Pension bill and just £4 million more than the Department for Work and Pensions spent on overpaying the State Pension in error last year.

Those who die in working age are twice as likely to spend their final year of life in poverty compared to people of pension age. Marie Curie says this change would reduce the likelihood of a terminal diagnosis driving working age people into poverty.

The charity also highlights that most people who die in working age have paid their national insurance contributions for 24 years.

Marie Curie says the change would be transformative for families affected by terminal illness and could be delivered at a minimal cost to the taxpayer.

The charity’s Dying in Poverty campaign has shown how terminal illness can force working age people into poverty, with one in four people who dies in working age spending their last year of life below the poverty line.

The campaign has substantial public support, with polls showing that 75 per cent of UK adults support giving dying people early access to their State Pension. it also found that 72 per cent believe the government has a responsibility to protect terminally ill people from falling into poverty.

Open Letter to The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Here is the letter from Marie Curie to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mel Stride.

“Nobody should spend their final days worrying about money. But that’s the reality for the 90,000 people across the UK who die in poverty every year.

“A terminal diagnosis can have an enormous financial impact on dying people and their loved ones. Hit with huge new expenses just as their income plummets, many terminally ill people have to go without essentials like heating, vital care, medical equipment, and decent food at the end of their lives – or risk not being able to pay their bills.

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“Nobody should have to face these impossible decisions when they’re dying. But the existing support available through your department is failing to protect people from falling into poverty after a terminal diagnosis.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. That’s why Marie Curie is calling for a new approach, and is asking your department to give terminally ill people:

  • Early access to their State Pension
  • Targeted help with energy bills
  • Support with childcare costs.

“Please will you meet with Marie Curie to discuss these measures, which would make a huge difference to the hundreds of thousands of people in the UK who are dying in poverty?”

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