Chancellor 's 'hypocrisy' at pay-outs for jab damage

Western Daily Press 02/06/2000 http://www.thisismidsomerset.co.uk/

By Stuart Coles

THE mother of a girl severely disabled by whooping cough vaccine has criticised the Government's "hypocrisy" for not giving other jab-damage victims fair compensation.

Margaret Jensen, whose daughter Isobel was seriously brain-damaged by the vaccine, said Tony Blair's administration is no different to the other governments who have ignored victims over the decades she has campaigned.

While other victims of medical mishaps regularly receive multi-millionpound pay-outs, the families of vaccinedamaged children have been forced to struggle by on meagre hand-outs while caring for their loved ones under both Tory and now Labour governments.

Former West school teacher Mrs Jensen is furious at what she believes is a U-turn by Chancellor Gordon Brown.

She says he fought for more compensation for victims while in opposition - but has now turned round and said there is no cash available in the Treasury.

Isobel Jensen died in October 1993, a fortnight before her 31st birthday.

She had never matured past the mental age of 18 months and was unable to speak or feed herself.

The benefits to which she was entitled were only paid in full eight months after her death.

Despite her campaigning with husband Hans Christian and other parents over 30 years, the Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme set up in 1979 still only pays out a maximum of 10,000 to some victims' families and their full-time carers who can prove 80 per cent disability.

Mrs Jensen, who lives in Chippenham, and works for the National Trust, said she is still angry about apathy and neglect from society and politicians over the issue.

"It's still an unresolved issue. When we first started campaigning I was under the naive assumption that they would be interested and something would be done.

But we have just been met with a series of governments and the same delaying tactics."

"People like us are the least equipped to cope. Because you have to find the time and energy and you are caring fulltime for someone you love - you are defeated before you start."

William Hague's Back-bench is now backing a campaign for 'generous' package of compensation to victims.

A spokesperson for the Treasury denied Gordon Brown was blocking cash.

He said there was simply no money available and no change in law to allow compensation.

But Conservative MP for Chippenham and North Wiltshire James Gray said any politician should stick to promises made when in Opposition and said he would be willing to take up the Jensens' case.

"It's typical excuse to say there is no money in the Treasury. But any politician should be able to deliver promises made before coming into power - especially if it is something that you have personally campaigned for."

But Mrs Jensen, aged 59, said she was very sceptical about promises from either side. The couple never had any more children of their own, although Hans, a retired printer, has a daughter, Sheila, from a previous marriage.

"Isobel was never a burden. She was lovely, she was a joy to have and we miss her. You have to move on and do other things. But there is a new anger - we and others were never given a fair deal. A debt is owed to victims by society instead of just giving us the insulting irrelevancies they come up with."  

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