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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): Since 17 July 2008 qualifying members of schemes eligible for assistance through the financial assistance scheme have been able to access their assistance from up to five years before their normal retirement age where they are unable to work due to ill-health. These payments are actuarially reduced for early payment so that the overall value of the amounts they will receive over their expected lifetime is maintained.
We are today beginning consultation on a set of draft regulations that would allow qualifying members who are aged over 55, whether within five years of their normal retirement age or not, to access FAS assistance early, without actuarial reduction, where they have a serious illness that significantly reduces their life expectancy.
The consultation will end on Wednesday 3 December. A limited written consultation period is appropriate for these draft regulations as they follow from comments made in earlier consultation and reflect discussions with key stakeholders. This will enable us to increase peoples payments as soon as possible.
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