Extra £1million for contaminated blood victims in Northern Ireland

Victims of the contaminated blood scandal in Northern Ireland who receive thousands of pounds less in support payments than those infected in England have been given £1m to address the inequality.

Campaigners, including The Haemophilia Society, have called for action on the huge inequality that means someone infected with hepatitis C as a result of contaminated blood products in England could receive up to £23,000 a year more in support payments than someone with the same infection in Northern Ireland.

Campaigners Martin Sloan, Paul Kirkpatrick and Conan McIlwrath met Finance Minister Conor Murphy yesterday, just before the £1m of extra funding was announced.

Yesterday Northern Ireland Finance Minister Conor Murphy ended the financial injustice when he announced he’d ringfenced the cash from this year’s budget to “alleviate financial hardship” for those infected with hepatitis C and HIV by contaminated blood.

Clive Smith, chair of The Haemophilia Society said: “This is great news for people in Northern Ireland who only receive a fraction of the payments given to others in the UK. Every victim of contaminated blood was infected through the NHS, and it is disgraceful that they should receive hugely different payments. We continue to campaign for equal payments across the UK. “

At present, someone in Northern Ireland infected with Stage 1 hepatitis C as a result of contaminated blood receives £4,096 a year in support payments, compared with someone in England who could receive up to £28,000 a year.

The £1m will be used to increase payments made to people who currently receive money from the Infected Blood Scheme in Northern Ireland, backdated to April 2019.  That was when the Government in Westminster announced a major uplift in payments to the English Infected Blood Support scheme, but the increase did not apply to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as health is a devolved matter.

Conan McIlwrath, a trustee of The Haemophilia Society and co-chair of Friends and Families of Haemophilia, Northern Ireland, has campaigned for equal payments.

Conan, 37, from Larne, was infected with hepatitis C as a result of treatment with contaminated blood products for his haemophilia.

He said: “I’m one of the lucky ones, I can still work but many of our members can’t. This extra money will make a big difference. I can’t get life insurance so having the security of the extra payments means I can put some money away and do my best to secure my son’s future.

“This announcement is a step in the right direction. There’s still work to be done to achieve parity across all four nations. “

The Department of Health in Northern Ireland has not yet confirmed when the money will be distributed and what amounts will be received. It is expected that payments will be based on the English Infected Blood Support Scheme model.

Campaigners, including Clive Smith and Conan McIlwrath, will meet Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden and junior health minister Nadine Dorries  today to discuss the inequality of support payments across the UK and the lack of long-term psychological support for victims.