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Downton Abbey actor backs plea for benefit changes for terminally ill patients

Actor Jim Carter said: ‘Every day 10 people die waiting for the benefits they need; that can’t be right.’

Actor Jim Carter (centre) and representatives of Marie Curie and the Motor Neurone Disease Association arriving at 10 Downing Street, London, to hand in the Scrap Six Months petition, signed by 55,000 people calling for easier access to benefits for those who are terminally ill.
Actor Jim Carter (centre) and representatives of Marie Curie and the Motor Neurone Disease Association arriving at 10 Downing Street, London, to hand in the Scrap Six Months petition, signed by 55,000 people calling for easier access to benefits for those who are terminally ill.

A Downton Abbey star has delivered a petition to Downing Street, demanding changes to the benefits system for people living with terminal illness.

Jim Carter, who plays butler Charles Carson in the ITV period drama, joined campaigners from charities Marie Curie and the Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Association outside Number 10 on Wednesday.

More than 55,000 people have signed the petition urging the Government to help terminally ill people access benefits quicker.

Currently, only patients who have been given less than six months to live by a doctor or nurse are entitled to quicker benefits access.

The charities are calling for the six-month rule to be abolished, and replaced with a system based on the judgment of doctors and clinicians.

Mr Carter, an ambassador for Marie Curie, said: “It seems ludicrous that, rather than enjoying life with their loved ones, dying people have to spend their time filling in forms and attending interviews with benefits advisers, or must even go to coaching sessions aimed at getting them back to work.

“Every day 10 people die waiting for the benefits they need; that can’t be right.”

Mark Hughes joined Mr Carter in Westminster. He faced problems accessing benefits after he was told he could no longer work due to terminal bone cancer.

He said: “I told the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) I was unable to continue working and a few days later I got the first set of forms to fill in.

“I had numerous letters from them over months with the same questions being asked over and over again.

“Sometimes, forms were sent by mistake, I was having to deal with all of this while still dealing with the news that I was terminally ill.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “Terminal illness is devastating and our priority is dealing with people’s claims quickly and compassionately.

“Terminally ill people can get their claims fast-tracked and access to benefits without a face-to-face assessment.

“We recently announced that we’re undertaking a comprehensive evaluation of how we treat those with severe conditions and terminal illnesses to ensure these vulnerable people get the support they need from our benefits system.”

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