Contaminated blood victim says scandal means he’s unable to pay bills
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015
'Everything I have is gone, I'm at rock bottom'. These were the words today of a Norwich man made sick because of contaminated blood given to him by the NHS as he faced bailiff action over an unpaid council tax bill - which he claims he can't pay because of his illness.
The married dad, who contracted hepatitis C in the 1980s from blood products given to him for mild haemophilia, was summonsed to court after being unable to pay his latest Norwich City Council tax bill.
The case went to Norwich Magistrates' Court, upon which he was given 14 days to pay £1,014 for the full year, as well as £60 in costs, or face possible bailiff action.
However, he claims to be unable to meet the costs because his sickness means he can't regularly work, he is being refused benefits and the government continues to stall on providing proper compensation for him and the thousands of others affected by the scandal.
The 61-year-old, who is self-employed and has asked not to be identified due to the stigma attached to his illness, said today: 'I have paid Council Tax all my life and for this to happen is just another nail in the coffin. I'm ill, through no fault of my own, and have recently been in hospital some days and bedridden others and unable to work any more than a few hours a week.
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'But when I try and get support through benefits they class me as fit enough to work. But the money has run out, I've got a wife and two children who depend on me and I simply could not pay this bill.'
As previously reported, he is one of thousands nationally, scores of them in this region, who were infected with hep C or HIV after being given poisoned blood products that were imported in the 1970s and 1980s without proper safety checks – and in spite of safety warnings.
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Many decades on they are waiting for Prime Minister David Cameron to make good a promise to introduce new funding arrangements and provide an extra £25m in funding. Norwich North MP Chloe Smith has called the saga a 'national disgrace and a national tragedy'.
The victim, whose only support from the state is to receive £291 a month from the Caxton Foundation, set up to help victims but facing accusations of being unfair and poorly run, believes that proper compensation would give him and his family more financial security.
In another bitter blow he is also currently being refused a breakthrough drug called Sofosbuvir, even though it was approved by drugs regulator NICE in January as a potentially effective drug to rid sufferers of hep C. He said: 'They've basically said I need to wait until I've developed cirrhosis of the liver before they can give me the drug, even though it leaves me so lethargic I'm unable to do anything. It just makes you feel distraught because ultimately it was the government which infected us, it wasn't our fault.'
He says his complaint isn't aimed at the council, though he claims they know of his situation. He has written back to them offering to pay off the bill at £50-a-month.
The letter states: 'Please be aware I have nothing, anything of value that I had has been sold so I can feed my family.'
A spokesperson for Norwich City Council said: 'We have a duty to pursue non-payments of council tax and always try to work with people before taking court action or, as a last resort, referring cases to external enforcement agencies.
'We encourage people who have difficulty in paying to contact us as soon as possible to reach an agreed way forward, and there are several opportunities to do this prior to a case being referred.'
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