Trusts and schemes examined by inquiry
Written by Aaron Dennis, February 26, 2021
The Infected Blood Inquiry has started to scrutinise the trusts and schemes set up to support people infected and affected by the contaminated blood scandal.
Over four weeks of evidence, the inquiry will question staff and trustees from the Macfarlane Trust (MFT), Skipton Fund, Eileen Trust and the Caxton Foundation, dating back to 1988 when the first scheme was set up.
The inquiry has already heard evidence from Peter Stevens, an original MFT trustee who also served as its chair between 2000-2007. He also chaired the Eileen Trust, the Skipton Fund and the Caxton Foundation.
Mr Stevens, who had two sons with haemophilia, one of whom died in 1989 as a result of being infected with HIV, was invited to join the MFT board by Rev Alan Tanner, chair of the MFT and The Haemophilia Society. Mr Stevens was critical of continued government underfunding of the MFT, which he said meant it could not fulfil all its duties, in particular towards the bereaved.
The inquiry heard that the MFT kept £4 million in reserves and sidelined forming a business case for more money in favour of setting up the Skipton Fund in 2003. When the case was put to the Department of Health in 2005 for a rise from £3m a year to £7m a year it was largely rejected.
Ann Hithersay, MFT chief executive from 1997 – 2003 said its ethos was “not to be over-generous” and to “look after and grow” the money it already had. She said the MFT acted more like an administrative arm of government than an independent charity.
Mr Stevens was asked about a series of internal emails from 2004 in which he had written derogatory comments about campaigners and, in particular, Haydn Lewis a MFT recipient who was infected with HIV and hepatitis C and has since died. After an exchange with Mr Lewis, Mr Stevens wrote: “It is irritating that someboyd (sic) so thick can come up with such meddlesome suggestions.” He told the inquiry that this was “totally inappropriate” language which he had apologised to Mr Lewis about when they came to light. Mr Stevens also described members of the MFT’s partnership group as a “load of moaners” and of the group itself as a “monumental waste of time”.
The inquiry also heard from Christopher FitzGerald, MFT chair 2007-2012, about battles for funding from the Department of Health. He described the fear that the department would withdraw funding after the Archer Inquiry. He said: “The threat was there.”
The inquiry will continue to investigate this issue until March 25. An updated timetable of witnesses appearing before the inquiry is here.
To find out more, transcripts and recordings of all oral evidence given to the inquiry are here.
The Haemophilia Society provides regular inquiry updates through our website and social media. Read weekly summaries of inquiry hearings here. Follow the inquiry as it happens through our dedicated Twitter account @HaemoSocUK_PI or join our closed Facebook page.