Benefits Expert: Extra help for friend with cancer?

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Q MY friend has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and has been told she only has three to six months to live.

She is claiming Disability Living Allowance (DLA), but somebody told her there is another benefit of £75 a week she can claim.

Do you know anything about this?

M (by Email).

A I THINK the benefit that your friend has been told about is Disability Living Allowance (DLA), but special rules apply for the terminally ill.

People with a life expectancy of up to six months automatically qualify for the High Rate of DLA for Care (£77.45 a week) without having to serve the usual three-month waiting period.

If the person has reached 65 the appropriate benefit is High Rate Attendance Allowance.

The Department for Work and Pensions has a “fast track” system for claims made under these special rules and they are decided on a doctor’s report completed on Form DS1500.

Another person may claim on behalf of a terminally-ill person where, for example, the patient is not up to completing the form or where they have not been told the full nature of their condition.

People can claim these benefits from the DWP Benefit Enquiry Line on 0800 882200.

Q I AM 64 and due to reach pension age next June, but I might carry on working part-time.

I receive maximum Reduced Earnings Allowance of £63.24 a week and wonder what will happen to it when I turn 65.

Is it true that you can receive REA for life if you work for three months after pension age?

Ken (by Email).

A NO, that is not what the rules say.

REA will stop when a person reaches pension age unless they are in “regular employment”. When it stops it is then replaced by the much lower Retirement Allowance (RA).

For people receiving maximum REA like you, RA is £15.81 a week. A person who is in “regular employment” after pension age, however, will continue to receive REA without reduction for as long as they are in such employment.

“Regular employment” in this context means an average of at least 10 hours a week. However, if someone starts to receive REA for the first time three months or more after they have reached pension age, they can receive REA indefinitely without it being replaced by RA.

This applies whether or not they are working. I believe this curious situation is due to a loophole in the law. I am afraid it would not apply to you because you started to receive your REA before you reached pension age.