Almost immediately after the consultation document and its accompanying proposals were published they were met with dismay and anger by the contaminated blood community. It was not in any form the improvement on support that had been expected, but to then actually realise that if implemented the proposals would leave those co-infected with HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C worse off was an utter shock that many are still trying to come to terms with.
As if to rub salt into the wound within days the Scottish Government approved recommendations for their contaminated blood vicitms that those of us south of the border can at this time only dream of. Many are now asking what was the point of the last two years of compaigning if this is the result? Some important questions now need answering.
To what end was the information provided to Jane Ellison and Alistair Burt used?
Over the last two years Jane Ellison, and Alistar Burt in particular from a co-infected constituent, have been receiving information about our concerns and have had indepth contact with past MFT trustees who will have given a complete picture of just what the MFT does, what is paid out and how things need to change. It appears that none of that information has been used or referenced for the proposals in a way that is positive for the co-infected community who live with HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C.
Further to this there was the YouGov survey of last year which gave a comprehensive view of what the community saw as improved support and before Christmas there was a meeting of campaigners, instigated by the DH, with the puported aim of informing the consultation process. Again, the outcomes of this survey and the meeting appear to have been ignored or dismissed in the creation of the proposals.
Take into account the many hundreds of letters and surgery meetings with MPs, who have in turn written to Jane Ellison, and the information passed on by the APPG on Haemophilia and Contaminated Blood there is no excuse for how these proposals have come into being if the Government are indeed committed to 'doing more'.
Was Ellison subject to pressure in the same vain as asserted by Iain Duncan Smith?
Just recently Work and Pensions Minister Iain Duncan Smith resigned from his post citing undue pressure on his department from the Treasury to make cuts to welfare payments that he felt were unjust. Was Jane Ellison subject to the same pressure? Is this why the proposals are so shockingly poor? Is the real barrier to the contaminated blood community receiving improved levels of support the Treasury and the relentless pursuit of cuts? In which case was the past two years campaigning all for nothing and it was never possible or the intent to actually improve support?
How can Scotland arrive at such radically different figures?
The Scottish approach has been one of commonsense and respect. They haven't danced around surveys or consultations or promised millions only to then subject those funds to a spending review. Scotland had the simple idea to get all stakeholders in a room and thrash out a deal. The figures Scotland are now implementing were not pulled out of thin air, as it appears has been the case in Westminister, but were a group decision that recognised that above all financial security was the least that was needed to give contaminated blood victims for the future. Our Government is asking if we want our support cut. Under what circumstances did they think this set of proposals would be found acceptable?
If this is indeed the case that the Treasury are restricting funds then it is little wonder UK proposals bare no resembalance to the Scottish scheme which is now being implemented. The Scottish figures were well known before the UK proposal was sent out, so again the DH must have forseen that their proposals would be met with anger and derision here in England when there is such a gulf between the two schemes.
The proposals we are being asked to comment on here in England are possible by only ways; by incompetence or by design. Having witnessed what this Government is willing to subject the poor, vulnerable and disabled to then on balance the assumption must be that these proposals must be entirely deliberate.
The Birchgrove Group website is maintained and updated by a small group of HIV positive haemophiliacs for the sole purpose of providing information and news which is relevant to others in the same position.
Any communication with the Group will be treated in the strictest confidence and any information provided kept in accordance with the UK Data Protection Act.