Thalidomide survivors have welcomed a 10-year, £80 million government grant that will help fund the increasing support needs they face as they grow older.
The grant will enable additional financial support for England’s 325 surviving “thalidomiders”, who have impairments caused by the drug being taken by their mothers during pregnancy between 1958 and 1961.
It will pay for the cost of support such as personal assistants, adaptations to homes and vehicles, and wheelchairs, and will be administered by the Thalidomide Trust, which manages the compensation paid by the firm that marketed thalidomide in the UK.
EDRIC, a Europe-wide group set up by thalidomide survivors – which runs the DysNet online community on dealing with limb loss and deficiency – welcomed the announcement.
Geoff Adams-Spink, EDRIC’s chair, said: “This news comes as a huge relief to myself and the several hundred other survivors in England who have to cope every day with the damage caused to us by thalidomide.
“It’s a sad fact that many affected have not lived to see this day but those who have are in our sixth decade [and] are facing increasing costs to help us stay as healthy and independent as possible.”
He added: “The effects of thalidomide aren’t just what you can see such as shortened arms or legs, but there is also often damage to internal organs, vision and hearing and, as we age, an increasing loss of the mobility we do have.”
The funding was first piloted in 2010 with a three-year grant of £20 million. Weeks after that grant was announced, the government finally expressed its “sincere regret and deep sympathy” for the “injury and suffering” caused by thalidomide.
Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat care services minister, this week repeated that expression of “deep sympathy”.
He added: “This deal represents our clear acknowledgment that thalidomiders should be supported and helped to live as independent lives as possible, and we hope that this grant will aid that cause and provide an element of long term financial security.”
The new funding only affects those survivors living in England. Scotland has announced a 10-year grant of £14.2 million to help its 58 known thalidomiders, while Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to make announcements in the next few days.
The Department of Health said the Thalidomide Trust would produce an annual report detailing how the money was being used, including how it was “reducing loss of independence and preventing or delaying further damage to health, mobility, and well-being”.
Martin Johnson, director of the trust, said: “We are receiving many emails from beneficiaries saying how this will now enable them to plan various ways of developing their personal support to remain independent.
“I believe the news will help many to relax and get on with their lives without the anxiety that has been plaguing them up until now.”
20 December 2012