'Cost of dying' crisis emerges as Wales labelled the nation at greatest poverty risk, charity warns

The report found that women, parents with dependent children and ethnic minority groups were the most vulnerable. Credit: PA

A "cost of living" crisis has emerged with Wales deemed the worst hit nation in the UK for those dying in poverty, a charity has warned.

According to Marie Curie, working-age adults are twice as likely to die below the poverty line as pensioners.

It comes as the charity found more than 90,000 people die in poverty in the UK every year - and Wales is the UK nation at greatest risk.

The research, which was based on the latest data available from 2019, also suggests that women, parents with dependent children and people from ethnic minority groups are more vulnerable to poverty at the end of their life.

The figures are made up of 68,000 pensioners and 25,000 working-age people who died, from any cause.

Research into the topic came from Loughborough University and was commissioned by the end-of-life charity, Marie Curie.

Working-age adults are twice as likely to die below the poverty line as pensioners, says Marie Curie. Credit: PA

Named 'Dying In Poverty', the report explained: "The UK is also facing a 'cost-of-dying crisis', with many more people affected by terminal illness at risk of falling into poverty as a result of lost income, higher prices and a working-age benefits system that is increasingly failing to safeguard people from poverty at the end of life."

Researchers used a definition of poverty which takes into account people's "inescapable costs" such as childcare, and added that poverty can both increase the risks and be a consequence of ill-health and subsequent mortality.

It applies to those whose average income over the last three years (after accounting for core living costs such as childcare, housing, and disability) was less than 54% of the average UK income minus these costs.

Further figures show that of those 28% of working-age adults who died in poverty, 42% were from minority ethnic groups, compared with 25.4% of white working-age people.

Marie Curie said the findings - the first of their kind - are "shocking" and "nothing short of a national indignity". It is calling for the state pension to be given to dying people of working age.

Marie Curie Chief executive, Matthew Reed, said it "cannot be right" that terminally-ill people of working age miss out on their desperately-needed state pension "simply because they are not 'old enough' when they die".

The report looked at "inescapable costs" such as childcare, housing and disability. Credit: PA

He added: "No one wants to imagine spending the last months of their life shivering in a cold home, struggling to feed themselves, their children, and burdened with the anxiety of falling into debt.

"But for 90,000 people a year that is their reality. It's a far cry from the end of life that we'd all hope for. We are staggered to see the scale of poverty among dying people. Simply put, it is shocking."

The charity welcomed recent government steps enabling people with a year or less to live to be given fast-tracked access to benefits, but said the system is failing to keep working-age people out of poverty at the end of their lives.

People who are terminally ill and have jobs face having to reduce their hours or give up work altogether, as well as added costs such as higher energy bills, paying for home adaptations and funding care.

Juliet Stone, from Loughborough University's Centre for Research in Social Policy, said: "Our research, for the first time, not only tells us how many people die in poverty but shines a light on who these people are, where they live in the UK, and the triggers, such as terminal illness, which push them below the poverty line.

"Although we expected to find an increased risk of poverty at the end of life, we were shocked to discover the extent to which this is happening across the UK."

She added that the pressures on people who experience poverty at the end of their lives will only increase as the cost-of-living crisis deepens.

A DWP spokesman said: "Those nearing the end of their lives can get fast-track access to

a range of benefits without needing a face-to-face assessment or waiting period, with the majority of individuals receiving the highest rate of those benefits.

"From April, we extended that support for Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit, and in this week’s Queen’s Speech, we announced similar changes to Personal Independence Payment, Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance, meaning thousands more people at the end of life will be able to access these benefits earlier.

"In addition, the government is taking decisive action to ease pressures on the cost of living, including spending £22 billion across the next financial year to support people with energy bills and cut fuel duty, and our £1 billion Household Support Fund is helping the most vulnerable with essential costs."