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Scottish Government pledges ‘vital’ lifelong support to thalidomide survivors

Thalidomide survivors will receive ‘vital’ financial support over the course of their lifetime, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf pledged (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Thalidomide survivors will receive ‘vital’ financial support over the course of their lifetime, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf pledged (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Thalidomide survivors living in Scotland are to receive lifelong financial support from the Scottish Government.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said he hoped the “lifelong commitment” would provide reassurance to those affected.

There are currently 50 known survivors of the drug in Scotland, most of whom are now in their 60s.

They are among the thousands of babies born with birth defects after their mothers took thalidomide while pregnant, with the drug being commonly used to treat morning sickness from 1958 to 1961.

Babies were born with defects after their mothers took thalidomide during pregnancy
Babies were born with defects after their mothers took thalidomide during pregnancy (PA)

In 2013 the Scottish Government committed £14.2 million to help survivors over a 10-year period, with the money going to help with health and living costs.

Ministers have now extended that agreement, with grants to be allocated to survivors on a needs basis, as assessed by the Thalidomide Trust.

Mr Yousaf said: “This funding is used to give thalidomide survivors as much assistance as they need to maintain their independence. It has been a vital support in helping people adapt their homes and manage their pain.

“I hope this lifelong commitment to continue this support will reassure recipients and help them deal with any challenges they face.”

Jean, 61, who was born with damage to all four of her limbs as a result of thalidomide, described the announcement as “great news”.

She said: “The Health Grant from the Scottish Government has really helped me over the years – my kitchen, for example, is now completely accessible from my wheelchair and I have been able to build a little gym in the garden which has helped me so much in terms of my physical strength, fitness and my mental health.

“Due to thalidomide, I live with chronic pain and if I don’t move around my body would stiffen and seize up.

“The grant also allows me to pay for a personal trainer who understands my disabilities and can keep me fit and flexible, without causing further damage.

“Knowing this funding is going to continue indefinitely has given me, and many other Thalidomiders living in Scotland, such peace of mind.”

Deborah Jack, executive director of the Thalidomide Trust, said that the funding announcement was “fantastic and very welcome news”.

She added: “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.

“Many of them have been really anxious about the prospect of this much-needed funding coming to an end.

“We are really pleased that the Scottish 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.”