‘I’m dying of cancer but it’s taken months to access my pension’

Terminally ill face a ‘lottery’ to access their pension

Whether and how a member can claim benefits with a terminal diagnosis will vary from scheme to scheme. Some will require that a member is unable to do any job, rather than just their own. 

Those diagnosed with terminal conditions, usually considered those with a prognosis of less than a year, may be able to take their whole pot as a tax-free lump sum, whether or not they are over the age of 55.

But it is not possible to claim a state pension early if a patient is diagnosed and dies before they reach state pension age.

Sir Steve Webb, former pensions minister, said: “Where someone is terminally ill it can be something of a lottery as to the exact scheme rules.

“But most will have some version of ill health early retirement which would allow you – for example – to take your regular pension earlier and with no reduction.”

He explained that for defined benefit (DB) pensions, members will only usually be allowed to take the pension as a lump sum if it is “trivially” small, but will need to take financial advice before they can transfer it.

Sir Steve added: “I should say that such advice can be expensive (thousands of pounds) and that the process can take many months.”

Some politicians are campaigning to make it easier for those with terminal diagnoses to get their hands on their pensions.

Laurence Robertson MP is the author of a Private Members’ bill that will make patients eligible for payments for terminal illness from the Pension Protection Fund and Financial Assistance Scheme with a prognosis of 12 months, rather than six.

But he says this is just the beginning of the reform that should take place.

He said: “While the bill itself is very narrow, we hope that the principle from it will be taken forward. So that’s really the purpose of the bill itself.

“The last thing that people with a terminal diagnosis need is money problems.”

Mr Robertson said that when his family were caring for someone with a terminal illness, they realised how much financial pressure it could be, especially when palliative care is taken into account.

“My wife and I were nursing someone last year who was given two months and they lived a lot longer than that. They would have benefited from this.”

A DWP spokesman said: “We understand how difficult and life-altering a terminal illness is, which is why we are pleased to support Laurence Robertson MP’s Private Members’ bill to extend the definition of terminal illness within the Pension Protection Fund and the Financial Assistance Scheme, bringing this in line with the social security special rules for certain benefits and the serious ill-health provisions in tax law.

“This change will allow those eligible to receive these types of payments at an earlier stage of their illness when the extra money may be needed the most.”

You may also like...