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Terminally ill Fermanagh woman's legal bid after she was denied benefits


Lorraine Cox has launched legal challenge over the definition of terminal illness

Lorraine Cox has launched legal challenge over the definition of terminal illness

Lorraine Cox has launched legal challenge over the definition of terminal illness

A Co Fermanagh woman has launched a legal challenge over the "cruel" definition of terminal illness after she was denied disability benefits.

Mother-of-three Lorraine Cox, aged in her 40s, has Motor Neurone Disease and does not know how long she has to live.

Despite retiring for health reasons, she still had to search for work for months after a medical assessment for both Universal Credit (UC) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

This was because of a legal definition of terminal illness, which means someone would be "reasonably expected" to die within six months.

She previously challenged the decision in 2018 and was awarded a basic payment, but was refused the enhanced mobility payments.

Ms Cox also told the Belfast Telegraph at the time how she depended on her three children for basic care.

Her application for a judicial review on the matter is due to be heard in the High Court today.

"The process of seeking to obtain benefits has continually exacerbated my stress levels and anxiety," she said.

"I have had to constantly fight to get the same entitlement to benefits as other people who are terminally ill.

"Despite being diagnosed with a terminal illness I was refused fast track access to additional support and had to show that I was searching for work in order to receive Universal Credit."

Ms Cox said she felt she had been failed by the system and that the official approach to terminal illness was outdated.

"I have accepted my path in life now but please don't put anyone else through it," the mother of three said.

Law Centre NI legal officer, Owen McCloskey, is assisting Ms Cox in her application.

He said that the six month clause was cruel and restricted support to people at a very difficult time.

"The six month rule was introduced over 30 years ago and was intended to assist people in accessing special terminal illness rules, not restrict them," he said.

"It is now hurting terminally ill people who have an illness that's more difficult to accurately predict."

Mr McCloskey called on the UK Government to change the legal definition of terminal illness, adding that the Westminster all-party group called the existing rule unfit for purpose.

He noted that an independent review of PIP in Northern Ireland had recommended the clinical judgement of a medical practitioner should be sufficient to allow special rules to apply.

"We are now testing whether the application of the six month criterion is in fact lawful," he added.

Belfast Telegraph