Scottish Government, St Andrew’s House, Edinburgh
Before the end of 2016 the Alliance House organisations and the Scottish Government were prioritising payments to those already in their systems who were due money for the financial year 2016/17.
All those who returned the forms by the deadline received payments. An extra £12.5millions was paid out by Scottish Government, over and above the £2.5 million via the Skipton Fund, Caxton Foundation, and MFT paid in previous years.
- The vast majority was used in increasing the Skipton Stage 1 payment from £20,000 to £50,000. 330 payments of £30,000 were made to people in Stage 1.
- The distinction between Stage 1 and Stage 2 was removed for those who are co-infected with Hepatitis C and HIV. All of these people are now treated the same. Stage 2 lump sum payments of £50,000 were made in 11 cases. We believe that all of these were people with a bleeding disorder.
- 138 people who are having their on-going payments increased received lump sums backdating the increase to April 2016.
We know that the end of last year was very frustrating for many of our members who didn’t know when they would be receiving their payments. However, there was a lot of work and negotiation going on behind the scenes to get these payments out before the end of the year and we are grateful to the officials who worked hard to get these payments out before Christmas.
We know that there are still some people who haven’t returned their forms. If you haven’t returned your form and need some help or haven’t received a form and think you should have please get in touch with Dan Farthing-Sykes in the office on 0131 524 7286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next challenge is to make sure that the transition to the new Scottish support scheme is as smooth as possible. The new scheme will be administered by National Services Scotland (NSS) which is a Scotland-wide health board. This is a big change from the UK-wide scheme which were non-government organisations. The new Scottish scheme is being delivered by part of NHS Scotland. As such it will be directly accountable to the Scottish Government. National Services Scotland have launched a webpage where you can keep up to date with progress towards the launch of the new Scheme.
As part of this process NSS are setting up an Advisory Group which will help the scheme administrators make sure their systems are as sensitive as possible to the needs of the people receiving the support. If you are interested in joining the Advisory Group please email NSS on NSS.SIBSS@nhs.net.
We have had some concerns that the Advisory Group wasn’t going to be well equipped to deal with the outstanding policy issue. However, we have received assurances from the Scottish Government that they will continue to take the lead on this work themselves and will involve those affected as much as possible.
The outstanding policy issues from the Financial Support Review Report are,
- Lump Sum Conversion. Recipients of the on-going annual payments should have the option of converting these into a one-off lump sum payment by way of final settlement.
- Insurance. Access to insurance products, and additional loading of premiums due to infections, should be given further consideration.
- Regular Review. The operation of the schemes should be subject to periodic review in conjunction with beneficiaries.
- Threshold Review. The current thresholds for Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the Skipton Fund should be the subject of a specific, evidence-based review to create new criteria based on health impact, rather than focusing predominantly on liver damage.
- Hepatitis C deaths review. This review should also thoroughly evaluate the criteria for attributing HCV to the cause of death, including death certificate data.
- Stage 0 applications. Applicants may have historically been rejected from the Skipton Fund without sufficient justification, openness and transparency. It should be open to these applicants to reapply to the new scheme using more uniform, published principles. A future review should consider suitable principles for the evaluation and decision-making process.
We understand that the Scottish Government are already working on establishing a group who will work on issues 4 and 5, reviewing the threshold between the stages and the criteria for attributing a death to hepatitis C. We are hopeful that more details will be announced before the end of February.
We further understand that the policy development work to establish the criteria for applications to the new discretionary grants will also be lead by the Scottish Government rather than by NSS itself.
We have been disappointed to learn that the widows of those who died at Stage 1 of the Skipton Fund process are not currently eligible for the additional £30,000 payment to bring them in line with the new Stage 1 lump sum for those who are still alive. Our Chair, Bill Wright, has been exchanging letters with the Cabinet Secretary making the case for widows to receive this money. However, the Scottish Government’s position that this will not be revisited until the schemes are reviewed. We are continuing to explore ways in which Stage 1 widows can be better supported financially under the new scheme.