MORE than 500 terminally ill people in East Lancashire have been hit by a “cruel and arbitrary” benefits rule over the last three years.

Figures show that since 2018 a total of 525 people across the region applied for Personal Independence Payments under special rules that supposedly fast track the process for people whose doctors have given them six months or less to live.

But campaigners have said that the process for doing so is complicated, and that the six-month rule is overly harsh and arbitrary, while around 100 people across the country have died over the same period while waiting for appeals they have made to put on the process to be approved.

Michelle Cardno, founder of Fightback4Justice which represents disabled benefits claimants from across East Lancashire and Greater Manchester, said: “We had the case of a gentleman whose widow we were representing only this week.

“He was given no points in an assessment for Personal Independence Payments, he had chronic kidney failure and he was on dialysis but he was given no points.

“While he was waiting for an appeal he died of a heart attack attributed to the kidney failure.

“We’ve had seven or eight clients who have died waiting for appeals.”

She added: “It just shows that the system is not working, there’s no checks and balances at all, the assessors do not know who has appealed so someone could be writing damningly wrong assessments over and over again and they wouldn’t know.”

Research carried out by the BBC Shared Data Unit shows that 195 terminally ill people in Blackburn with Darwen were hit by the six-month rule since 2018.

This has also impacted 81 people in Burnley, 72 in Hyndburn, 103 in Pendle, 47 in Rossendale and 27 in the Ribble Valley.

Nationwide, charities have echoed Ms Cardno’s points, with officials from Marie Curie, which has campaigned to scrap the six-month rule, having said they have “serious concerns” that the Department for Work and Pensions could not see when dying people needed support.

A department spokesperson said: “Terminal illness is devastating, and our priority is dealing with people’s claims quickly and compassionately.

“Those nearing the end of their lives can get fast-track access to the benefits system, with the majority receiving the highest possible award and paid within three days of making a claim.

“We will be extending the current six-month end-of-life rule to 12 months so more people can get the vital support they need.”