Cab Sec clarifies intention to review “Stage 2” criteria

Health and Sport Committee 002

Bill Wright, Haemophilia Scotland, giving oral evidence next to Petra Wright, the Hepatitis C Trust.

Today the Health and Sport Committee of the Scottish Parliament took evidence about the Scottish Government’s response to the Penrose Inquiry Final Report.

In his evidence Bill Wright, Haemophilia Scotland, emotionally emphasized the urgent need to get the enhanced financial support arrangements in place. Philip Dolan, Scottish Infected Blood Forum, complained that his note of descent was not included in the recommendations report of the financial support review group.  In her evidence, Petra Wright stressed the importance of recognizing extra-hepatic manifestations of Hepatitis C infection.

Later, the committee heard from the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing, and Sport, Shona Robison MSP.  The Cabinet Secretary told the committee that she understood the urgency and was hoping to use the current financial support arrangements to start making improved payments before any new Scottish organisation was set up.  She also particularly welcomed the recommendation from the review group that the criteria for ongoing support (Stage 2) should be reviewed to change to look at overall health impact and not just consider liver damage.

Finally, she confirmed that that the Scottish Government will make an full announcement before the Scottish Parliament purdah.  Until now she had committed to making an announcement before 17 April.  Today’s clarification brings that date forward to before midnight on the 23rd of March.

The whole session can be watched on scottishparliament.tv

Health and Sport Committee 004

Shona Robison MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing, and Sport explains how the financial support arrangements currently work.

 

6 comments

  • I’m no lover of the current Scottish Government but must give credit where it’s due, also to Haemophilia Scotland and the Hep C Trust, here’s hoping this is the start of a new beginning for those who were victims of State supplied contaminated blood.

  • How is the eradication of all discretionary grants, and £30,000 to be paid (maybe) plus £20K ten years ago (the total equaling one ordinary SMP’s annual salary) to compensate for a loss of a lifetimes income and pension, loss of home and family, social stigma, and endless and ongoing pain and suffering.??.(plus the after effects of the awful ribavirin and interferon therapies)??

    They also seem to somehow forget that S. Irish compensation figures were fixed at £330,000 per person (over ten years ago) How the appallingly inept excuse for an inquiry group arrived at a sixth of that figure, I’ll never know.

    Of course, Ian Welsh’s appointment to lead the financial compensation group was the majority of the stitch up and again it’s in the interests of ‘certain parties’ to pretend that everyone sees this penny-pinching tokenism as a great ‘step forward’..instead of yet another slap in the face..

    This is a shameful pretense of a ‘settlement.’ which does not even approach the recommendations of the Ross Report, of March 2003.!

    It will however (yet again) assure the legal profession’s huge ongoing incomes from the public purse, as each of the HCV victims attempts to take the backstabbing Tartan Tories to court.

    • Hello Richard,

      I think you are conflating the two sets of proposals. The proposal in Scotland is to pay the £30,000 and increase the size of the discretionary grants fund. The proposal the Department of Health (England) are consulting on has no equivalent of the Scottish £30,000 and proposes removing the discretionary grants. Under the English proposals people would have to go through regular health assessments which would determine the level of ongoing payment up to a maximum of £15,000pa which would not be inflation linked. This contrasts with the Scottish proposals which don’t require ongoing assessments and would start, for those who qualify, at £27k-£37k, and would rise in line with the median Scottish full-time wage.

      The Irish scheme was not fixed at £330,000. The average payment to an infected person was 330,000 Euros and there was huge variation from tens of thousands to over a million. These payments were based on individual assessments similar to those a court would conduct if liability was established. The biggest determining factors for how much someone in Ireland got paid was the financial losses they could establish (loss of a business, being unable to work, etc). The Scottish consultation rejected having individual assessment based on loses.

      The Ross Report recommended that everyone was paid £50,000 and then there should be an individual assessment of financial loses, in a similar way to the Irish scheme. If implemented, the additional £30,000 proposed in Scotland (when combined with the £20,000 already paid through the Skipton Fund), would bring people to the £50,000 point recommended by Ross, although without any increase to take account of inflation over the ensuing decade. However, what would happen thereafter is significantly different to the Ross recommendations. The English proposals are so different from the Ross recommendations that it is hard to make a meaningful comparison.

      You are right that the word “settlement” is perhaps not appropriate. Their is no question that the Scottish proposals do not represent a full and final settlement in a legal sense as nobody would have to waive their legal rights to take further action. As such they are an improvement in the current ex-gratia support rather than a legal settlement.

  • Afternoon Dan.
    Thank you for your reply.
    I’m very glad that you have managed to translate the existing proposals into clear and understandable propositions (as above)
    .. Previously, the recommendations (in the form of the proposals of the Finance Group) were totally confusing, and it was impossible to fully understand the victim beneficiary levels at all.
    I am still not clear about (for example) what portions of the financial proposal addresses or partly addresses solatium, (if any.) and also how the assessment criteria of severity of HCV and ongoing hepatic/ ribavirin/interferon / EHM / damage will be arrived at, if a Scots ATOS employing non-qualified ex-nurses under contract (or equivalent) is not to be used in assessing victims medically..

    Regarding all of the above, I am not sure what will be implemented on March 17th? by Robison of course, however, your clarification goes a long way towards assisting an understanding of some of the future possibilities Thank you for this.

    There will of course also be Legal Aid criteria regarding levels of personal income and existing capital to take note of, once a interim/continuing -settlement is made, which will undoubtedly deter many victims claiming further financial redress.

    This fact was recognised by the Ross Report, however not so in the latest round of Finance Group recommendations, so anyone with in excess of £13,017 capital will be expected to pay part of their legal costs if they envisage claiming any further. This will obviously include almost everyone concerned.

    regards etc.
    rb
    bg

  • Glad some of my clarifications were useful.

    The solatium question is an interesting one. While no part of the proposed payments are overtly for solatium in practice it’s the up front payment which is the closest equivalent. Because the qualification criteria for the current Skipton Fund stage 1 £20,000 was simply that someone was infected through the disaster then I consider it to be in recognition of the pain, suffering, and distress caused by the fact of being infected, rather than any subsequent damage. I was surprised to learn that Scottish courts rarely award more that that for a solatium payment even where liability has been established. Given the huge distress that the fact of being infected cause, I would have expected it to be much higher. That was part of the reason that the financial support review group argued that this payment needed to be higher and more in line with the Ross recommendation. However, the issue is slightly by the fact that the line or argument which helped get the proposed additional £30,000 into the recommendations was that there were people with significant health problems and financial losses who aren’t currently getting stage 2 Skipton Fund support. The recommendations which went to the Perth consultation meeting suggested having the £30,000 as an interim payment which people could get when once they could demonstrate that the hepatitis C infection had caused health damage. The feedback from the meeting, combined with the argument that after all these years it would be very rare for anyone to have no health damage, to make the case for making the increase for everyone. If not, there would be a danger of just making the scheme more complicated for no reason. The consultation responses also showed that a lot of people thought it was fairer for everyone to get the same, regardless of how much health damage or financial loss they had suffered. So, maximising the amount that everyone would be entitled to by making the £30,000 for everyone seemed a good first step in that direction. Although, obviously not what those people were arguing for. As I think I said before though, that leaves the problem that these proposals, if implemented, don’t include an element for financial losses caused by the illness of anyone who doesn’t end up qualifying for the new ongoing payments.

    You also asked about how the threshold for the new ongoing payments would be set and assessed. The short answer is that we don’t know yet. The Scottish proposals are that the criteria should move from just assessing the damage done to the liver and move to assessing the wider health impact of the virus, in particular to consider extra-hepatic manifestations and the impact on mental health. Clearly this is going to be more complicated than the current system. However, the other element to this part of the recommendations was specifically that it wouldn’t be based on face to face individual assessments. It would, instead, be a widening of the more paper based process that the Skipton Fund already uses. So, as well as being able to qualify by demonstrating a certain level of liver damage, you’d also be able to qualify if you were able to show you health had been sufficiently impacted by a related condition, or that your mental health had been damaged to an agreed point as a result of having being infected. The recommendation is that these thresholds should be taken by a new group with clinicians and patients represented. No action can be taken to set it up until after we get an announcement from the Scottish Government saying that they will be implementing the proposals. So we don’t know who’d be on it or how fast it would be able to work yet. The answers that Shona Robison MSP gave to the Health and Support Committee were very encouraging on this point (above) but nothing is certain until we have an official announcement.

    In terms of what will be announced before April 17th (which in effect means by the 23rd of March). We are expecting to know if the Scottish Government will be implementing the Scottish recommendations, and importantly rejecting the proposals the Department of Health (England) have made. If they do, we would also expect the announcement to give people a timetable of when they might expect to get any new money. If there is any sort of delay while some of the recommendations are put in place, as looks inevitable, then we’d want to talk to them about backdating as a matter of simple fairness.

    In terms of further legal challenges, from the cases I’ve had most to do with (and a lot of the legal work in case by case so I can’t see it) I think it is the time bar which is causing the biggest problems for people wanting to bring cases. In some cases the legal aid question has come into people’s thinking but more often people are just struggling to build a case after this much time. Thompsons Solicitors are still interested in pursuing the legal cases but how they might do that is well beyond my level of legal knowledge. Personally, I think to make progress on the access to legal aid issue politically we’ll need several case studies of people in Scotland who are trying to bring a case but being blocked by the legal aid rules. At the moment I don’t know of anyone in that position (if anyone reading this is in that position then please email me on dan@haemophilia.scot rather than commenting on this thread). The difficulty is those with the best cases are often told not to speak about them in public for the fear of damaging their chances of getting to court. Similar, if people were successful it can be a condition of the payments not to talk about it then either. All this makes the legal routes difficult for us as a charity.

    I know that the uncertainty is extremely frustrating. I just hope we get a clear announcement from the Scottish Government soon.

    Sorry for such a long reply.

  • Thank you for going to such efforts to make that considered reply.

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