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What Social Security Scotland means by terminal illness

If you live in Scotland and have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, you can apply for disability benefits under Special Rules for Terminal Illness.

In determining if you're terminally ill, Social Security Scotland refers to the definition of terminal illness in the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018:

A person is considered to be terminally ill if they have a progressive disease from which death may reasonably be expected.

Only a healthcare professional (registered medical practitioner or registered nurse) involved in your diagnosis or care can determine whether or not you meet this criteria.

If you’re unsure about your diagnosis, you should speak to them.

Their clinical judgement regarding your illness must be made with reference to the Chief Medical Officer’s guidance.

How the definition of terminal illness in Scotland is different to the rest of the UK

Outside of Scotland, the Department for Work and Pensions provides disability benefits for those with a terminal illness. These benefits are awarded under special rules for end of life.

Benefits awarded under Special Rules for Terminal Illness by Social Security Scotland differ from these in two ways:

  • Social Security Scotland does not require your healthcare professional to determine life expectancy when supporting your application
  • they're lifetime awards and will not be reviewed unless your circumstances change

How you know if you have a terminal illness

If you're unsure about your diagnosis, you should speak to your healthcare professional. Only they are allowed to make a clinical judgement that you meet the definition of terminal illness as required by Social Security Scotland.

Your doctor, nurse, or a member of the clinical team will also be able to direct you to useful sources of information, advice and support, for example:

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