Thalidomide survivors in the UK will get lifetime financial support guaranteed

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced lifetime financial support for thalidomide survivors, as part of the Budget (Photo: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced lifetime financial support for thalidomide survivors, as part of the Budget.

The Chancellor announced the extra funding as part of his 2021 Budget announcement, with money also going to businesses impacted by the Covid pandemic, domestic support programmes and Universal Credit recipients.

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‘They deserve better than to have constant uncertainty about the future costs of their care’

The Chancellor addressed how funding to support survivors of the thalidomide scandal is due to run out in 2023, but said that funding will now be extended “forever”, with an initial down payment of £40 million.

Thalidomide was used in the late 1950s and early 1960s to help pregnant women who were suffering from morning sickness, but the drug led to babies being born with severe birth defects.

The Thalidomide Health Grant has been providing support since April 2013. It currently provides help to more than 400 people in the UK through direct cash grants, which helps them access personalised specialist care, rehabilitation and treatment.

Mr Sunak said that those affected by the thalidomide scandal “deserve better than to have constant uncertainty about the future costs of their care.

“So not only will I extend this funding with an initial down payment of around £40 million, I am today announcing a lifetime commitment, guaranteeing funding forever,” Mr Sunak added.

The Chancellor thanked the Thalidomide Trust and the Honourable Member for North Dorset “for their leadership on this important issue.”

The Thalidomide Trust website says it is “a registered charity, supporting a unique community of people who are living with disabilities as a result of their mothers taking the drug, thalidomide during the first three months of pregnancy.

The website explains that, “Primarily marketed under the brand name Distaval, thalidomide was licenced in the UK for less than four years before it was withdrawn, so our beneficiaries are all a similar age and experience similar issues and challenges – but they are definitely not all the same.”

Addressing the lifetime funding guarantee from the Government, Deborah Jack, Executive Director of the Thalidomide Trust said: “This is fantastic news. Sadly, as our beneficiaries age they are experiencing multiple health problems in addition to their original thalidomide damage and the costs of meeting their complex needs are significant.

“We are really pleased that the government has recognised this by committing to lifetime financial support and also agreeing to review the level of funding regularly to ensure it is meeting their changing needs.”