Governments have a chance to take “decisive action” over financial support for infected and affected

Letter to the Prime Minister from the Scottish Infected Blood Forum and Haemophilia Scotland
13th October 2018
SIBF Member Meeting – Saturday 27th October 2018
17th October 2018
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Governments have a chance to take “decisive action” over financial support for infected and affected

Both the UK and Scottish Governments are at a cross-roads and face a crucial opportunity in terms of the commensurate financial supports to be given to the infected and affected of the contaminated blood disaster.

In relation to the Infected Blood Inquiry, the Chair, Sir Brian Langstaff, has written to the Cabinet Office drawing attention to the current financial support schemes that see infected and affected people across the UK paid widely varying amounts of financial assistance or having difficulty in accessing funds.

In his letter to the Minister for the Cabinet Office, David Lidington MP, Sir Brian acknowledges the level of sentiment and anger expressed to him at the preliminary hearings in September from those infected and affected.

In his letter Sir Brian says:

“Throughout the hearings there were repeated calls for financial assistance that fully recompenses individuals and families for the losses they have suffered…decisive action should be taken at the earliest opportunity.”

The letter also notes the lack of desire among core participants for the Minister to appoint panel members alongside the Chair and asks the Cabinet Office to confirm that he does not intend to appoint them. It reiterates the Inquiry’s intention that the Inquiry’s expert groups will provide transparent and open advice to Sir Brian across a range of expert opinion.

The full text of the letter can be found a little further below (the emphasis in bold are ours).

In relation to the Scottish Government, many of our members, and others, look forward to them taking the lead and taking decisive action on the financial supports of chronic/stage 1 infected and affected citizens. The Scottish Government has accepted the formal recommendations of the Clinical Review report in full. One of the Report’s key recommendations was this:

The Group recognises that there is a gap between the awards made to those with and without advanced hepatitis C, but is of the view that the extent of the difference between the current awards – a difference which was accentuated by the Financial Review Group (FRG) recently – is inconsistent with the difference between the cumulative past (and future) lifetime impacts of hepatitis C experienced by those with and without advanced hepatitis C. The Group considers that this inconsistency is unfair and inappropriate, and should be addressed commensurately.

{Clinical Review of the Impacts of Hepatitis C Section 13.2.2}

In other words our members tell us there should not be a sizeable gap between advanced and chronic annual payments, cumulative past and future lifetime impacts require to be recognised and addressed commensurately.

The key word here is ‘commensurately‘.

This does not mean fulfilling a moral duty ‘based on budgets‘.

It means fulfilling a moral duty ‘based on need‘.

 

Sir Brian Langstaff’s letter to the Minister for the Cabinet Office is below:

15th October 2018

Dear Minister,

Infected Blood Inquiry

Thank you for attending the commemoration before the Inquiry’s preliminary hearings. The commemoration set the tone by ensuring that the impact on individuals and their families was at the forefront of people’s minds during the preliminary hearings.

I heard from the 1,288 core participants both through their legal representatives and directly from those unrepresented.

You should be aware that there were considerable concerns during the preliminary hearings about access to (and variations in) financial support, psychological support, and also concern that not everyone who was infected has been identified.

During the commemoration people were heard asking “Where is the compassion?” and describing how they “lost everything”, “had to live on the breadline” and “feel betrayed”. Throughout the preliminary hearings there were repeated calls for financial assistance which fully recompenses individuals and families for the losses they have suffered. One of the legal representatives said, “recently there have been changes to the way in which these funds are administered, but any suggestion that this represents proper compensation for the hurt they have, they are and will continue to suffer is met with anger and indignation”.

Counsel representing the Department of Health and Social Care undertook to convey back to those she represents the words, the emotions and the aspirations for this Inquiry and to reflect about current steps that are needed. Decisive action on this matter should be taken and communicated to those affected at the earliest opportunity.

You have deferred making a decision on the matter of panellists and this was open to participants for discussion. There was no demand that I should sit with them. To the contrary, the Welsh and Northern Irish core participants have said – “firmly” – that they are happy for me to sit without them; the largest represented group said through their Counsel that they support the idea of me sitting without assessors; and Counsel for the Scottish core participants said they could see the advantage of the role of expert groups, and his submissions mirrored my own desire for “received wisdom” to be open to challenge. (As you know from our earlier exchange of letters, I see the role of expert groups in this Inquiry as being to inform me openly and transparently, across a range of truly expert opinion, of their views, and by doing so to displace the need for single experts, whose views would neither be openly expressed nor open to public challenge, to sit with me as panellists).

The general feeling conveyed was that participants had faith in the Inquiry’s approach. In the light of this, and following on from the considerations expressed in my earlier letter to you on this subject, I recommend that you do not appoint panel members to share in my determination of the issues raised by the terms of reference.

I was grateful for the full participation of everyone who attended the preliminary hearings and watched online. There was a palpable spirit of cooperation, togetherness and cautious optimism that the Inquiry will get to the truth. As I said to those attending, I will do my very best to make sure it does and I should be grateful if you could continue to ensure that resourcing and supporting the Inquiry is a priority for your Department.

Yours sincerely,

Sir Brian Langstaff

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