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Benefits applications for terminally ill people in Wales go digital

People who are terminally ill in Wales can now have their benefits applications fast-tracked online thanks to a campaign by Macmillan Cancer Support.

Before this change, people with fewer than six months to live had to apply for some benefits they were entitled to by post.

This was usually through a health professional, such as their clinical nurse specialist, who then posted the forms to benefits advice teams to process and send on to the Department of Work and Pensions.

This sometimes led to delayed claims – or claims that got lost in the post – and some claimants sadly died before ever receiving the benefits they should have had.

Now, thanks to a campaign by Macmillan Cancer Support, a growing number of professionals in Wales can now send the DS1500 forms digitally.

This means terminally ill people can apply for and get their benefits more quickly.

Although a digital system existed in England, it did not exist in Wales previously as the IT systems used here were not compatible with the systems used by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

Macmillan campaigned to get the DWP and the NHS Wales Informatics System (NWIS) to meet and the organisations found a workable solution – a dedicated mailbox for the forms to be sent from the NHS to the DWP.

Adrienne Rees, a Macmillan Benefits Advice Manager at Neath Port Talbot Council, is one of the professionals who has seen the difference this new approach has made.

She said: “Our advisers normally deliver a face to face service at the hospitals where they can follow up with health care professionals on the medical evidence we need to support benefit claims.

“When the lockdown was introduced, we were no longer able to access these professionals in this way.

“The electronic DS1500 has created an opportunity for these reports to be sent to us via email, preventing delays in waiting for them via post.

“Some health care professionals have been working from home so we would have seen huge delays in the reports reaching us if this had not been adopted.

“At the same time the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) made many benefit applications available online.

“This allowed us to contact a patient via telephone to submit the application and then separately submit this medical evidence to the DWP for the claim to be processed.

“These claims are being processed quicker than ever before due to the success of this electronic DS1500.

“We work with many health care professionals in the NHS and have long standing relationships in place with them.

“The success of this would not be possible if it was not for their continued support.

“This change is making a huge difference to our patients with Welfare Benefit and Blue Badge applications.”

Richard Pugh, Head of Partnerships for Macmillan Cancer Support in Wales, said: “This is a fantastic example of how a simple change can make a huge difference to people living with cancer and other life-limiting illnesses in Wales.

“By sending these forms digitally people with less than six months to live can apply for their benefits more quickly speeding up the process at a time when they shouldn’t be worrying about money.”

At a time when the charity’s income faces a significant drop, Macmillan is doing everything it can to be there for people with cancer during the pandemic, who need it more than ever.

For information, support or just a chat, call Macmillan free on 0808 808 0000.