Terminally ill people should be allowed to draw their state pension early to prevent many spending their final year in financial hardship, a government charity urges.
It would cost £114.4m a year, or 0.1 per cent of the annual state pension bill, to lift some 8,600 dying people out of poverty each year, says Marie Curie.
People who die while still of working age are twice as likely to fall into poverty than people over state retirement age, according to a study by a group of university experts conducted for the charity.
State pension: Marie Curie calls on the government to relax the rules to help people of working age who are dying
Working-age people given a year to live have paid National Insurance contributions for a state pension for an average of 24 years, the research found.
But Marie Curie says many are pushed into poverty because the benefits available to working-age adults are “simply not fit for purpose.”
>>>’We’re surviving on credit cards’: Read the story of 61-year-old cancer patient Cheryl below
‘The state pension is the single most effective safeguard against poverty in our social security system,’ says Mark Jackson, Marie Curie’s senior director of policy and research.
‘But no matter how long they have paid, people living with a terminal illness of working age are denied this security.
‘We are giving the government a solution that could be implemented at a cost affordable to the state. In fact, the cost could be covered almost entirely by the savings made simply by reducing overpayment errors by the DWP.’
The charity is asking the government to adopt the measure in its spring budget in March.
How much is the state pension?
The full flat rate state pension is currently £185.15 per week and will increase in April to £203.85 per week or £10,600 per year.
People who retired before April 2016 on a full basic state pension receive £141.85 a week, and this will increase in April to £156.20 a week or £8,120 a year.
The old basic fee is supplemented by additional state pension rights (S2P and Serps) if they were earned during working years.
The government responded that it remains committed to a universal state retirement age, and last year extended accelerated access to benefits to many more people with terminal illnesses; see his statement below.
The state retirement age is 66, and between 2026 and 2028 it will increase to 67. The government is still deciding the timing of the next increase in the state pension to 68.
The Center for Social Policy Research, based at Loughborough University, explored two options to give working-age people with one year to live early access to the state pension.
In a proven option, they would consider the NI records of terminally ill people, and claim a state pension on that basis.
If your household income still falls below the level at which you would qualify for the pension credit, you would supplement to reach it.
A universal option would allow everyone with a terminal illness to claim the full state pension, while eliminating any working-age benefits they received based on means.
Each scenario was modeled for people in the last 12 months of life, but excluded some causes of death such as accidents, pregnancy, childbirth, and certain infectious diseases.
Dr Juliet Stone, who carried out the research, says: “Our analysis of end-of-life poverty produced the shocking finding that an estimated 90,000 people die in poverty each year, and that the risk of poverty it is highly concentrated among people who die before retirement age.
“This latest work demonstrates that the simple and cost-effective measure of giving terminally ill people of working age access to the state pension could be a very effective policy to reduce people’s risk of poverty at a time when they are already extremely vulnerable. both personally and financially.’
‘Cheryl worked her whole life and now she’s getting nothing’
Marie Curie tells the story of Cheshire couple Cheryl Whittaker, 61, and her husband Mark, who have struggled financially since being diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Mark says, “The oncologist basically said to just go and enjoy the rest of your life together while you can, which was traumatic in itself.” Financially things are as distressing as cancer, we are surviving on credit cards.
Our bills are excessive. Cheryl is incontinent now, so I have to wash a lot more. Her neuropathy affects her feet and toes, so she’s always cold, but once she starts shivering, it’s hard to stop. Sometimes I just sit on the bed with her to try to warm her up again.
We have had to cut everything. Our bank account has been overdrawn by £2,000 for the better part of a year. And that’s why they charge us £600 a year.
‘Emotionally, when things don’t go well, it’s too much. I have sat in the living room by myself crying. The lack of government support has left us feeling worthless.
‘Accessing Cheryl’s state pension would change everything. Cheryl worked her whole life, 30 years in a management position, and now she’s getting nothing.
‘Giving him access to his state pension would give us back some dignity. It would give us our independence.
Helen Barnard, Associate Director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, says: ‘It is simply wrong that so many people are ending their lives in hardship.
“Families are forced to feel all the stress and guilt of not being able to make them feel comfortable, instead of being able to treasure the last few days, weeks or months with their loved ones.
“Surely we can all agree that we need to make sure that people who die are protected from poverty, and this is an eminently affordable way to do the right thing.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions says: ‘A terminal diagnosis is an unimaginable challenge, and our priority is to get people financial support quickly and compassionately.
“Those nearing the end of their lives can gain quick access to a variety of benefits without the need for a personal assessment or waiting period, and most receive the highest rate of those benefits.
‘In 2022, we’re expanding that support so that thousands more people nearing the end of life can access these benefits sooner through special benefit rules.
‘This change has already been implemented for the employment and support allowance and universal credit and the government recently passed a law allowing similar changes to personal independence pay, disability living allowance and assistance allowance.’
Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them, we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.