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New law will change the lives of many terminally ill people across Northern Ireland

24th January, 2022

Law Centre NI is delighted that legislation has passed in the Northern Ireland Assembly which will change the law on access to benefits for people with a diagnosis of a terminal illness.

The Social Security (Terminal Illness) Bill will extend the life expectancy criteria for people with a terminal illness to be eligible for fast-track support from the social security system from six months to 12 months.

The Law Centre and key health charities - Marie Curie NI, the Motor Neurone Disease Association and others - have pushed for change for some time.  Last year, Law Centre NI brought a case on behalf of our client, Lorraine Cox, a young mother with motor neurone disease who could not get fast-track support from the social security system because her neurologist was unable to say that her death was expected within six months.

Head of Social Security at Law Centre NI, Owen McCloskey, said:

“Lorraine has been a tireless advocate for change and her courage and determination to speak out about her experience of the benefits system, during a really difficult time in her life, has helped to ensure that no one else will go through what she did. We are delighted to see this positive change in the law. This will ensure that many more people who receive the devastating diagnosis of a terminal illness will have improved access to the social security system when they need it most”.

This is a momentous achievement for Marie Curie NI, the Motor Neurone Disease Association and others whose unwavering commitment means that people who are diagnosed with a terminal illness will now have better access to the benefits they need.

Director of Law Centre NI, Ursula O’Hare, said:

This is an important day and we welcome this new legislation that will get support to people at the time they need it most. We would like to acknowledge the strong cross-party support for this change and that the Assembly has progressed this legislation so quickly.”