Terminal illness and welfare benefits


Applying for welfare benefits can involve a lot of red tape; form filling, attending interviews, work capability tests.

However, if a doctor or nurse says you have less than six months to live, you can get quicker and easier access.

These special rules apply to benefits such as Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Attendance Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit.

Terminally ill people can apply for a claim under special rules if their doctors say that they are terminally ill and reasonably expected to die within six months.

Should they live longer than six months following the claim, it is possible for them to continue to claim under the special rules. After three years, their case will be looked at again if they live longer than originally expected.

How to apply?

A terminally ill person will need to ask their doctor/healthcare professional to complete a form called a DS 1500. They should have copies of this form and be able to send it back to them, or onto the relevant government department.

Under special rules  that apply for terminal illness, it is possible for a friend or carer to make the benefits application on behalf of the terminally ill person without their knowledge or permission.

Additionally, people receiving care in hospices can get DLA, PIP and Attendance Allowance under the special rules.

If someone is already claiming benefits but their illness becomes terminal then they do not have to make another claim. However it is important that they contact the government department that deals with the benefit and ask for the award to be changed because of a terminal illness. For more information on reporting changes, please see Benefits: Report a change in your circumstances on the Gov.UK website.

Issues with the special rules

There are a number of issues with the current process. Marie Curie say a lot of people miss out on a DS1500 because their clinicians don’t feel confident saying they only have six months left to live, even though they have a terminal condition.

We know also that many clinicians are under the impression that the DS1500 is for patients with terminal cancer only.

Doctors have also identified that it is clinically problematic to accurately diagnose life expectancy. With a strict definition of terminal illness, difficulties can arise when applying using the special rules.