At the start of the year 12 contaminated blood and blood campaigners from across the UK, including Haemophilia Scotland Chair, Bill Wright, met with The Rt. Hon David Lidington MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and Jackie Doyle-Price MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Mental Health, Inequalities and Suicide Prevention. The meeting was to discuss the call from Sir Brian Langstaff, Chair of the Infected Blood Inquiry, that the Government should act decisively on the issue of financial support.
Before the meeting the campaigners published the position they had agreed to take to the Government. They were calling for action,
- to end means testing,
- to end geographic variation in financial support,
- to end financial hardship for bereaved partner, bereaved parent or carer,
- for recognition that people both infected and bereaved should be recognised as both an infected person and a bereaved person,
- for support for people bereaved as children and people infected who were previously refused support, and
- so that no-one should be worse off and no-one infected should receive less than someone affected as a result of any changes agree.
The UK Government had indicated that it would respond to these points before the Infected Blood Oral Hearings began on 30 April. When there had been no announcement by 29 April, the campaigners wrote to the UK Government to call for a response.
On the morning of the first oral hearing, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) made a statement announcing more funding for the England Infected Blood Support Scheme; taking it’s annual budget from £46 million to £75 million. The statement said that the UK Government had also listened to the call for parity of support across the UK and that they were planning to start discussions with the devolved administrations to see how this could be achieved. Haemophilia Scotland has since learnt that their would be no Barnett consequential from the announcement.
On 8 May the campaigners responded by writing again to the UK Government, this time to the Prime Minister.
In the letter the campaigners,
- contrasted the UK-wide remit of the Infected Blood Inquiry with the announcement of new money for England alone.
- reported that the announcement had be meet with “disappointment, anger and frustration with expectations dashed yet again,” and
- called on the Prime Minister to take the matter in hand personally and to meet with campaigners to set a new course.
The campaigners received a reply to their letter dated 10 May.
In the letter the Prime Minister,
- thanked the campaigners for their engagement,
- acknowledged the UK-wide remit of the Inquiry and welcomed that it’s oral hearings had begun,
- said that it is “clearly right that the thousands of individuals and families affected by the scandal are properly and equitably supported,”
- said that the Government is committed to “providing those infected and affected with a fair and transparent support scheme, and addressing the disparity in financial support across the different parts of the UK,”
- confirmed that discussions were now underway with the Devolved Administrations.
- asked to maintain the dialogue.
Working with our friends at the Scottish Infected Blood Forum and with independent campaigners, Haemophilia Scotland is reaching out to the Scottish Government to discuss what these changes might mean for those who reply on the Scottish Infected Blood Support Scheme.