Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann has announced new payments to beneficiaries of the Northern Ireland Infected Blood Payment Scheme.
In March 2021, the Health Minister announced plans to reform the Northern Ireland scheme to bring it into greater alignment with the financial support provided in England, Scotland and Wales. Previously, those people impacted by infected blood in Northern Ireland have received considerably less financial support than those in other nations of the UK.
In this most recent announcement the minister confirmed that all eligible beneficiaries on the Northern Ireland Scheme have now received backdated arrears. In addition, bereaved beneficiaries who were themselves infected will receive annual payments for being both infected and bereaved.
The payments included increased lump sums for those who became infected with hepatitis C or HIV as a result of treatment with NHS-supplied contaminated blood, as well as improved annual financial support for bereaved spouses and partners.
For Northern Ireland Scheme beneficiaries who have sadly passed away and who were not survived by a spouse or partner, a £10,000 bereavement lump sum has been paid to their estate.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in England has committed to funding of up to £4.5m for the additional lump sum payments and the increases to annual payments for beneficiaries of all the UK infected blood support schemes up to and including 2021/22. As part of a parity agreement, UK health ministers have agreed that any future changes to national compensation schemes will be subject to consultation between the UK Government and the devolved administrations.
In addition to the improved lump sums and annual payments to the bereaved, the minister also announced enhanced financial support for scheme beneficiaries with stage 1 hepatitis C whose infection or treatment is considered to have a substantial and long-term adverse impact on their ability to carry out routine daily activities.
Robin Swann said: “A targeted consultation will shortly commence to help determine the most appropriate away to assess eligibility for enhanced financial support for hepatitis C stage 1. It is important that this new policy is developed in partnership with those infected and/or affected.
“Regardless of which assessment model is applied to the Northern Ireland Scheme, the payment will be the same across all four nations and in line with the rate paid on the English scheme.
“I remain committed to doing everything I can to ensure those infected and/or affected by contaminated blood continue to get the support they need and deserve in recognition of the devastating impact this has had on their lives.”
Rachel Halford, Chief Executive of The Hepatitis C Trust, said: “We welcome these new payments from the Northern Ireland Executive. We also encourage the UK Government and devolved administrations to continue coordinating financial support for those both infected or affected by contaminated blood, and to engage closely with them to ensure the level of compensation is fair. While no amount of money can ever make up for what they and their families have been through, this is an acknowledgment and step towards making meaningful amends for the experiences that they have faced.
“The Hepatitis C Trust has also supported a number of people who were infected after September 1991, and we hope that the Infected Blood Inquiry’s consideration of the evidence around this will lead to compensation for people in this position.”
If you are affected by contaminated blood or require further information or assistance, please do not hesitate to call The Hepatitis C Trust’s confidential helpline on 020 7089 6221 or by e-mail. Everyone on the helpline has had hepatitis C themselves and can provide a wide range of information on all aspects of living with or being affected by hepatitis C. We can also provide guidance on making claims to the various infected blood support schemes people are eligible for.