In January, Clive Smith, chair of the board of trustees, wrote to Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington to express concerns about the resourcing of the Infected Blood Inquiry. Mr Smith’s letter and the recent reply from Mr Lidington, are both available to read below.
We are grateful for Mr Lidington’s reply and for his reassurances that the Inquiry will have all the resources it needs to fulfil its terms of reference.
On the key question of ensuring that adequate emotional support is in place for those affected by the Inquiry, Mr Lidington states that the current part-time telephone helpline operated by British Red Cross has additional capacity and will be kept under review. He also highlights the Infected Blood Support Schemes in the UK under which it is possible to claim up to £900 per year to help pay for counselling and psychological support services.
While the support schemes Mr Lidington refers to offer assistance to those directly affected as well as bereaved spouses or partners, they do not extend to siblings or children of those infected, who may be in need of counselling. It is also a time-consuming and complex process to apply for these grants, which is perhaps why take up is relatively low. We hope that a simpler way can be found to ensure that all those affected by the Inquiry get the support they need.
The Society will continue to listen to feedback from our members regarding the provision of psychological support and we are pleased that the Inquiry, too, is keeping this under review. We anticipate that as the Inquiry progresses and those infected and affected by this scandal relive very traumatic times, demand for psychological support will grow. We question, again, whether a part-time telephone support line will prove adequate. The Society wants to work constructively with the Inquiry to make sure demand is not only met, but that the support is offered in ways that are fully accessible, which may mean face-to-face specialist counselling as well as telephone support.
We thank Mr Lidington for his response and look forward to hearing the views of others in the community on this issue.