The Minister for Health, Eluned Morgan has today announced a lifetime guarantee of financial assistance for those affected by the Thalidomide drug in Wales.
The current ten-year agreement for the Thalidomide Trust Health Grant comes to an end in March 2023.
Thalidomide was commonly used to treat morning sickness from 1958 to 1961. It was withdrawn in December 1961 when it was found to have caused serious birth defects in babies born to women who took the drug during pregnancy.
Around 30 Thalidomide survivors in Wales are beneficiaries of the Health Grant, with many of them now aged 60 years or older.
The Thalidomide Trust oversees distribution of the Health Grant to Thalidomide survivors who use the funding for a wide range of health purposes. These include costs associated with pain management, personal assistance and personal care, mobility and independence and access to healthcare interventions.
The Health Grant allows each beneficiary to personalise the way they spend their Health Grant, based on their individual needs and preferences.
Since 2013 over £8m has been given to the Thalidomide Trust by the Welsh Government to support survivors. Following today’s announcement future regular reviews of funding have been agreed with the Trust which will ensure that the needs of survivors continue to be met.
Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan, said:
I hope the announcement today reassures Thalidomide survivors that continued financial support will be available to them. Providing support with their ongoing and future health needs to enable them to maintain independence and wellbeing for as long as possible. I want to thank the Thalidomide Trust for their work in helping to oversee the grant and providing vital assistance to Thalidomide survivors.
Deborah Jack, Executive Director of the Thalidomide Trust said:
Most of our beneficiaries are now in their 60s and the years of using their bodies in ways that were never intended has really taken its toll. Almost all of them are living with persistent pain and most are now experiencing multiple health problems. The costs of meeting their complex needs are significant and growing. Many of them have been really anxious about the prospect of this much-needed funding coming to an end so this is really welcome news.
We are really pleased that the Welsh government has recognised this by committing to lifetime financial support for our beneficiaries and also agreeing to review the level of funding regularly to ensure it is meeting their changing needs.
Gill T, 62, from North Wales, who was born with short arms and a damaged right leg as a result of her mum taking thalidomide during pregnancy said:
This is such great news. The Health Grant has made an enormous difference to my life and really helped me maintain my independence.
In recent years, I have used the funds I received to pay for an adapted van which can accommodate my wheelchair, an electric gate and garage door and electric blinds, a ramp outside my back door and a self-washing toilet.
I’m a very busy person and I also use the Health Grant funding to pay for someone to accompany me when I’m out and about – whether that’s going shopping, visiting garden centres, meeting family and friends for lunch or doing voluntary work. Knowing this funding is going to continue indefinitely has taken a real weight off my shoulders.