Question from RowntreeRandom: Hi there. My Aunt has been diagnosed with terminal cancer - I've read quite a bit on the Marie Curie website and a few other places, but where is the best place to go to for info on benefits? I've found it quite hard to help her and my Uncle so far. They do receive a few benefits already as they qualify for low income help. Thanks.
I’m going to try to answer both your questions together if
Unfortunately the benefits system is a bit of a maze and can
be hard to navigate particularly if you have little experience of claiming
Very broadly, the benefits system falls into two parts –
non-means tested benefits (often based on previous national insurance
contributions) and means- tested benefits (based on someone’s income and
There are several benefits for those who are ill or
In terms of disability benefits there are two that can be
awarded on the grounds that someone has a diagnosis of a terminal illness -
Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Attendance Allowance (AA).
PIP can be claimed by those below 65 years of age.
AA can be claimed by those who are 65 years old and above.
Both PIP and AA can be awarded under what’s termed ‘special
Someone is eligible to claim under the special rules if they
are living with a terminal illness and their death ‘can reasonably be expected’ within the next six months.
If this definition applies to you, it means you don’t have
to serve the usual three month qualifying period, your claim is given high
priority and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) or the Northern Ireland
Social Security Agency (SSA) will try to give you a decision within eight
Depending on which benefit you claim, you’ll automatically
qualify for the:
rate of the PIP ‘daily living component’
rate of AA
Depending on the impact of the terminal illness on mobility,
you may qualify for the enhanced rate of the moving around component of PIP.
PIP is a new benefit that is replacing Disability Living
Allowance (DLA). While it is no longer possible to make a new claim for DLA it
is still possible for those already receiving DLA to ask for the rate paid to
them to be reconsidered on the grounds of terminal illness.
If you are agreed as meeting the special rules for DLA then
you will be automatically be awarded its higher care rate component and may be
awarded its higher mobility component.
DLA, PIP and AA are all non means tested benefits and can be
paid regardless of someone’s income or savings.
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is the main social
security benefit for people whose ability to work is limited by ill health or
There are two types of ESA: contributory ESA and income-related ESA.
Contributory ESA is
linked to your national insurance contributions.
Income-related ESA is
the means-tested element of ESA. Means-tested benefits are the ones that vary
depending on how much or how little money you have coming in.
Income-related ESA provides for your basic living expenses
(and those of your partner, if you have one). It can be paid on its own or as a
top-up to contributory ESA.
Importantly, if you have a terminal illness, again your
claim should be dealt with more quickly under its special rules. The DWP
or the SSA in Northern Ireland will consider you to be terminally ill if you
have a progressive disease and your death ‘can reasonably be expected’ within
The special rules don’t put an upper limit on how long you
live. You can carry on qualifying under the special rules if you live longer
than is reasonably expected.
Those who are eligible for ESA under its special rules are automatically
treated as having a limited capability for work related activity and placed in
its ‘support’ group. This means that they do not have to face a work capability
medical assessment and awarded the highest rate of the benefit.
So, if you’re told that your death could reasonably be
expected at any time in the next five to ten months, you may be able to claim any
of the benefits I’ve listed under the special rules. If you live longer than
was reasonably expected, you just carry on claiming under the special rules –
always assuming that your death can reasonably be expected within six months.
In terms of more information, a good place to start would be
the following two Marie Curie online factsheets –
Each also have links to other factsheets where you can find
out more about DLA, PIP, AA and ESA.
Other benefits that might be claimed following a terminal illness
might include housing benefit (for help with rent) or council tax support/rate relief.
Again, Marie Curie have factsheets on both of these –
If you need further advice about what and how to claim any
of these benefits then you should seek independent advice.
A good place to start is often your local Citizens Advice
To find a CAB in your area go to -http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/getadvice.htm.
To find a CAB in Scotland go to - http://www.cas.org.uk/bureaux
Other sources of independent advice can be found in the following
Disability Rights UK factsheet -
Ken Butler - Disability Rights UK