The thalidomide grant is a three-year pilot, running from April 2010 until March 2013, to explore how the health needs of thalidomide survivors can best be met in the longer term and how such a scheme might be applied to other small groups of geographically dispersed patients with specialised needs. Officials have discussed the evaluation of the first year of the pilot with members of the Thalidomide Trust and its national advisory council and we await the evaluation of the second year.
The thalidomide grant was introduced by my right hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State under the previous Labour Government and has been going on for many years. Can the Minister assure me that it will continue until a decision is taken on whether to carry on with the scheme beyond the pilot stage or to do something else?
My constituent Mr Joseph Bannon of Cleveleys, who is a thalidomide patient, has made clear to me the great importance of continuing the scheme. They are a declining group of people with increasing needs and any failure by the state to meet those needs would be absolutely unconscionable. Will the Minister reassure me that there is no prospect of that occurring under this Government?
What I can reassure the hon. Gentleman about is that the Government are carrying on with the evaluation. We are waiting for the evaluation of the second year to see how the scheme is working. The grant is not intended to meet all the additional costs that thalidomiders face. Aside from the grant, there are other sources of public funding and, of course, the funds that the Thalidomide Trust administers on behalf of those survivors of this catastrophe.