Western Daily Press 28/06/2000
By Bob Roberts
CHILDREN disabled by routine medical vaccinations are to get increased payments from the Government, it was announced yesterday.
The aid package to those affected by vaccines for childhood diseases such as polio, whooping cough and measles is to be increased by £60 million, Social Security Secretary Alistair Darling told the Commons.
The families of 900 children who have already had cash help will get new lump sum payments ranging from £58,000 to £67,000 to pay for special nursing and equipment. One-off payments made to new victims will be more than doubled from £40,000 to £100,000.
Mr Darling also said the time limit will be extended for families to make claims and the "disability threshold" which victims must cross before getting cash will be lowered from 80 per cent to 60.
The move follows a two-year review of the vaccine damage payment scheme, set up in 1979 and criticised by campaigners in recent years as wholly inadequate.
"The Government recognises that caring for people who have suffered damage puts a considerable burden on their families and carers, "Mr Darling said.
"Nothing can make up for what has happened to these children, but we have a clear duty to support them and their families. That is why we have made these substantial improvements to the vaccine damage payment scheme."
One of the founder members of the campaign group Justice, Awareness and Basic Support (Jabs) gave the announcement a cautious welcome.
Ann Coote, from Bolton, whose 13year-old daughter was disabled by a measles, mumps and rubella vaccination, said: "This is another step forward. Any increase and acknowledgement that vaccine-damaged children exist and need help has got to be beneficial.
"But there will still be children who do not qualify for help and we need to look at the fine print . . . to see if those previously turned down can re-apply."
Shadow social security secretary David Willetts welcomed the changes, but criticised the time taken to complete the review and challenged the Government to legislate before the next election.
Ian Stewart, Labour MP for Eccles, who has led the campaign on behalf of vaccine-damaged children, said: "The issue of compensation now needs to be addressed."