Long calls for financial assistance for Thalidomide victims

Naomi Long MP called for a proper programme of financial assistance to be given to Thalidomide victims during a debate in Westminster on Wednesday.

Alliance MP Mrs Long spoke during a debate in Westminster Hall on a pilot scheme of financial assistance for Thalidomide victims and told the story of Kim Fenton, a sufferer from her own constituency of East Belfast.

The drug was marketed in the 1950s as a cure for morning sickness before being linked to birth defects and withdrawn from sale. There are currently almost 500 people suffering the effects of Thalidomide in the UK, with 18 residing in Northern Ireland.

“Kim Fenton, who has been one of the most public campaigners for Thalidomiders in Northern Ireland, met with me some months ago with other campaigners from across the UK about the future of the healthcare grant, after which I wrote to ministers in Westminster and each of the devolved institutions seeking a unified and comprehensive approach to how we support this unique group of people in their later life.

“The Thalidomiders in that meeting explained and demonstrated while the cause of the disability suffered by Thalidomiders is obviously the same, the nature of the disability and the challenges those affected face are different in each case and unique to each person.

“As they get older, they each face new health challenges, as they have used their bodies differently to compensate for absent or malformed limbs throughout their lives, increasing wear and tear but also leading to new and more complex needs.

“This week’s apology by the company which created the drug was long overdue, but what is more important than words is financial security for those living with the consequences. It is critical financial support is given to them, as it will allow them to tailor the specific support they need to each of their own unique needs, and also retain control over their care while retaining their independence.”

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