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Why put me through all that again? Terminally-ill patients appeal to Department for PIP rule change

By Michael Sheils McNamee

Terminally-ill patients have made an appeal to the Department for Communities for a change to the rules which govern how the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is awarded.

On Monday a delegation of individuals with end of life conditions, led by SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon, met with representatives from the Department at Stormont.

PIP is gradually being phased in to replace the Disability Living Allowance in Northern Ireland.

As it stands, individuals are only applicable for to be assessed under special rules - where the claim takes around two weeks to be processed, and doesn’t require a face-to-face assessment - if they have a diagnosis of less than six months to live.

Individuals who fall outside this criteria, even if they have an end-of-life diagnosis, find themselves facing what can be a taxing reassessment process to move from DLA to PIP.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph Martin Murtagh, a dementia sufferer and member of Dementia NI, described how he was called to go for an assessment despite having an end-of-life diagnosis.

"I was in a terrible state with depression and all of the rest. See when I got the letter saying you’ve been reviewed from DLA to PIP, when I got the letter I just went inside myself," he said.

"When I told my friends and family and that, everybody said ‘don’t worry about this, you’ll be OK’.

"Don’t let anybody tell you don’t worry about it, because you’ll worry about it. I’m sick, I know I have the alzheimer's and two sisters died with it, and the other one is still alive. So I have seen every stage and I know what to expect.

"...why put me through all that again? That is suicidal so it is, and so depressing. Why after me being diagnosed and going through all that, and that was only five or six months ago, why do all  that again and put you through all that again?"

The SDLP's Nichola Mallon said she planned to petition other party leaders for their support on a rule change and then bring this to the permanent secretary in the Department of Communiities.

It comes after action taken in the devolved Scottish Parliament to abolish the requirement for a diagnosis of less than six-months to live to be eligible for treatment under the special rules.

"These people are dying. They do not need to be spending the time that they have left sitting worrying about a PIP assessment, going through an intrusive face-to-face assessment and then waiting up to three months on payment," she told the Belfast Telegraph.

"So we’re willing to work with anybody and everybody to bring about that change."

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