POLITICS
05/02/2018 13:39 GMT | Updated 05/02/2018 13:49 GMT

Victims Of Contaminated Blood Scandal Forced To Undergo Benefit Reassessments

Families say they have been left 'traumatised'.

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Contaminated blood scandal victims and their families are being forced to undergo government benefit reassessments - despite many of them being unable to work for decades.

Thousands of people died after they were given blood infected with HIV and hepatitis during the 1970s and 80s while undergoing medical treatment, and many more were left with devastating health problems.

Some of the victims - many of them haemophiliacs and most of them male - unwittingly infected their partners, leaving several families with more than one terminally ill member.

Theresa May announced an inquiry into the incident - dubbed one of the biggest peacetime disasters to hit the UK - last year, with the leading judge expected to be announced ‘very soon’.

The government is also in the process of transferring people who receive Disability Living Allowance onto the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefits system - a process which requires all claimants to undergo health reassessments.

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Labour MP Diana Johnson

Contaminated blood families - supported by Labour MP Diana Johnson - asked the government for special dispensation which would allow them to be ‘passported’ to the new system without further scrutiny.

But ministers have so far refused the request and many victims say they have been left ‘traumatised’ by the process.

Carol Grayson spent decades caring for her husband Peter Longstaff, who died in 2005 after contracting HIV in the 1980s.

She told HuffPost UK: “I am in contact with a lot of families and I have heard of several cases where people have been reassessed and had benefits taken off them.

“These are people who have been very seriously ill and unable to work for a number of years - not just victims themselves, but their families who have been left with lasting trauma after spending years as 24/7 carers, with no support.

“By forcing people to undergo reassessment they are harming us further.  Every time we have to go though why we are in poor health, and the things that have happened to us, it is re-traumatising us.

“We did not put ourselves in this position.  Lots of us has good jobs and careers that we were forced to give up and in many cases, the wives of victims were the main earners anyway because of their partner’s existing health problems.”

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Carol Grayson gave up work to care for her husband, who contracted HIV from infected blood

Grayson, a former senior nursing specialist, said many widows are also facing the prospect of losing some of the pension entitlement when the Department for Work and Pensions carries out reassessments later this year. 

“Myself and others had a call with the DWP last week to discuss the issues,” she added.

“They even had a fraud investigation officer on the call, which I am convinced was a tactic to intimidate us.

“This has been catastrophic for so many families.  And until the inquiry is concluded, we are still dealing with unresolved grief.”

Johnson, who has campaigned alongside affected families for several years, told the Commons last week that the “decent and humane” course of action would be to automatically allow victims to receive the highest rate of PIP.

But social security minister Sarah Newton said it was “important to recognise no two people’s needs are the same”.

“PIP is a person-centred benefit that treat with parity of esteem physical and mental health disabilities,” she added.

According to the DWP, the assessment process does not require claimants to talk about the background to their disability.

A spokesperson said: “We introduced PIP to replace the outdated DLA system. PIP is a different benefit to DLA with different assessment criteria, and therefore someone claiming DLA is not automatically entitled to PIP.

“Regular reassessments mean we can ensure people get the help they need as their condition changes.”