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Benefits Tory MSP refuses to apologise for terminally ill declaration

TOP Tory Jeremy Balfour refused to apologise today for proposing that terminally ill people should be reassessed for benefits if they are still alive after three years.

The Scottish Conservatives’ welfare spokesman withdrew his amendment to a social security Bill being debated in the Scottish Parliament, whle still insisting that it was well-intentioned.

Mr Balfour had sought to change the law to specify that, “where an individual’s eligibility depends on the individual having a terminal
illness [and] at the end of a period of three years beginning with the day on which the individual applied for such assistance, the individual is still living, the Scottish ministers must review the individual’s entitlement to assistance.”

Former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: “This is a disgusting proposal from Jeremy Balfour that confirms just how callous and inhumane the Tories are.

“Terminally ill people deserve support and care not cruel assessments to check if they are still dying.”

But Mr Balfour told the Star he would not apologise and defended his declaration.

“The amendment that I was going to move today gives much greater protection to people that are vulnerable,” he said.

“Kezia Dugdale’s not on the committee. She doesn’t understand the issues and she has simply got the wrong end of the stick.”

Currently, terminally ill residents of Scotland are permitted “fast-tracked” benefits if they are thought to have less than six months to live.

Mr Balfour said he “wanted to extend” this to “people who sadly are diagnosed but have two years to live.”

He added: “Let me give you a practical example. In the 1980s, an HIV diagnosis was a diagnosis to be terminally ill. Due to medication, many of these people are still alive 30 years on.

“The question is, if you’ve been living with an illness that’s controlled by medication for 30 years, should you be granted absolute … benefits?”

A Scottish Tory spokesman added: “Jeremy decided to lay down two amendments as a potential solution. The first was to change the law to extend the six-month limit to two years.”

The spokesman said Mr Balfour had proposed a second amendment “to prevent someone who was diagnosed as terminally ill continuing to receive extra benefits for longer than a three-year period” but had “pulled this amendment … after discussion with other MSPs on the social security committee.”

Disability organisation Inclusion Scotland said Mr Balfour had “got it wrong.

Policy director Bill Scott told the Star: “While we’d be supportive of extending the likely to die in the next six months qualifying condition to two years, I’m afraid we couldn’t support Jeremy's proposed amendment.

“The six-month terminal condition qualifying criteria doesn't mean that the person has to die within six months or they go through a new assessment.

“It simply means that, if 50 per cent plus one of those with that condition/illness’ normal prognosis is for six months or less of life, then all of those with that terminal condition/illness will qualify and not have to go through any assessment at all.”

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