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Contaminated blood victims in the North to receive increased payments

Victims of contaminated blood in Northern Ireland are set to benefit from increased payments to a special scheme, the Northern Minister for Health, Robin Swann has said.

Mr Swann said the increased annual payments range from £18,745 (€20,946) to just under £45,000 (€50,285), depending on diagnosis, bringing Northern Ireland’s rates into line with England, where payments were increased significantly in April 2019.

The payments will be made to people on the NI Infected Blood Payment Scheme who were diagnosed with Hepatitis C or HIV after receiving NHS-supplied infected blood or blood products

The increased payments will continue into future years, the Department confirmed.

The decision comes after Families and Friends of Haemophilia NI wrote to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson over claims that victims in Northern Ireland were not being treated equally to those in the rest of the UK.

Mr Swann said the issue for those impacted by contaminated blood was an “immediate priority”.

“Having met with a number of people who have been infected and affected, I am acutely aware of the considerable impact that this has had on their lives and the suffering they have had to endure physically, emotionally and indeed financially,” he said.

“That is why I asked officials on July 31 to bring Northern Ireland in line with England. Following the necessary approvals on Friday we can now progress this as a matter of urgency.

“I know that in recent months the Covid-19 pandemic has added greatly to the concern already felt by many in this community and therefore I am pleased to deliver this very positive news.

“It is my sincere hope that this increased financial support, representing an additional annual funding commitment of £1.1 million by my Department, provides ongoing financial certainty for a group of people who have suffered tremendously.”

Three phase review

In January, Mr Swann said he was to carry out a three phase review to reforming the scheme to ensure victims received the same financial support.

“In addition, I was able to secure additional funding within my Department’s budget to make payments to non-infected widows and widowers on the NI scheme,” he added.

In April last year, at the outset of a state inquiry into the scandal, the Government announced an uplift in the level of financial support offered to those impacted during the time-frame of the inquiry.

However, that move only affected victims in England, with the devolved regions handed responsibility for making their own decisions on support. In Northern Ireland, the issue was one of many put on the long finger as a result of the powersharing impasse.

A commitment to resolve the issue was made in the deal that restored powersharing earlier this year.