Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has outlined her plans to extend the terminal illness provision in social security benefits.
Advising Assembly members of her decision, Minister Hargey said: “My priority is to reform the current rules to improve the support we provide to terminally ill people.
“I will extend the current six months criterion to 12 months and will bring forward legislation within this current Assembly mandate to do this.
“The changes I will make will apply to all of the five social security benefits to which the special rules apply.
“This is an important step forward that will mean more people who find themselves in the devastating position of being terminally ill will benefit from fast-tracked access to financial support through social security benefits.
“They will not have to go through assessments and will get automatic access to benefits earlier.”
The Minister continued: “I will keep these provisions under review and consider further options for reform in the future. This will include monitoring international best practice, reviewing the definition of special rules and looking at a clinically led model in the time ahead.”
Concluding, Minister Hargey said: “I am committed to making real change to the status quo in order to put in place a system that lessens the stress and anxiety for people during the most difficult times.”
Craig Harrison, Policy and Public Affairs Manager for Marie Curie Northern Ireland, said: “We warmly welcome this decision by the Minister, which will help ensure many more terminally ill people get the welfare support they need, when they need it.
“This will change the lives of countless dying people in Northern Ireland for the better. The legislation required to deliver this must be passed as quickly as possible and the changes monitored to ensure they are working as well as they can.”