Norfolk thalidomide survivor's 'relief' as Budget brings support for life

Thalidomide survivor Vivien Barrett from Ingoldisthorpe, in West Norfolk.

Vivien Barratt was born without arms or legs as a result of her mother taking thalidomide. She is relieved to hear of the support from the government in the Budget. - Credit: Thalidomide Trust

A Norfolk thalidomide survivor has shared her relief after the government's Budget pledge to provide lifetime support for those affected by the scandal.

Vivien Barratt, from Ingoldisthorpe in West Norfolk, is a semi-retired music teacher and was born with no arms and legs as a result of her mother taking thalidomide. 

She has been supported through the Thalidomide Health Grant, which currently helps more than 400 people in the UK to access personalised specialist care, rehabilitation and treatment.

The grant support was due to run out in 2023, but on Wednesday, chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a lifetime commitment to provide funding.

Miss Barratt has taught music for 35 years, sings semi-professionally and is looking forward to the reopening of swimming pools following lockdown. 

The 59-year-old said: "I was absolutely excited, very pleased and relieved to know any care or things I need there will be money to help us. 

"This last year in particular, I have been thinking I have only got a couple of years to go and think what I need doing or to need help with if we do not get the health grant.

"To get it for life, I have to say I'm somewhat relieved and happy. 

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"The money is very helpful, it takes the weight of the world off my shoulder. I'm looking forward to swimming when the pools can reopen, I will need somebody to come with me and come in with me and to pay for the personal care." 

Speaking in Parliament, the chancellor said: "They deserve better than to have constant uncertainty about the future costs of their care.
"So not only will I extend this funding with an initial down payment of around £40 million, I am today announcing a lifetime commitment, guaranteeing funding forever."

Deborah Jack, executive director of the Thalidomide Trust said: “This is fantastic news. 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. 

"We are really pleased that the 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.”

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