Children disabled by vaccines to receive more help

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Payouts to the families of children left disabled by vaccinesare to be extended by the Government. Recipients will have more time to qualify for payments and financial help will cover youngsters with less severe conditions.

Payouts to the families of children left disabled by vaccinesare to be extended by the Government. Recipients will have more time to qualify for payments and financial help will cover youngsters with less severe conditions.

Previously, claims for children damaged by vaccines at a young age could not be made after their eighth birthdays. The threshold will be raised to 21 years because ministers have received medical advice that some conditions can take years to manifest themselves.

The ministers were also told that because of the low level of publicity given to the Vaccine Damage Payments Scheme, some families were making claims for the payouts after the time limit had expired.

In a second change, the definition of the term "severely disabled" will be relaxed to entitle more families to claim under the scheme.

Children defined as 60 per cent disabled as a result of side-effects from vaccines will get help with their care costs. The previous minimum level had been fixed at 80 per cent.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said the payouts should not be regarded as compensation, but as enabling families to buy care. "It's a very good move for people who have had a great deal of suffering," she said. "It will help parents and families give more help and care to their loved ones."

But Andrew Lansley, the Conservative MP for Cambridgeshire South, said the changes – first proposed in 2000 – should have been introduced earlier. "It's common ground among political parties that it is right to increase compensation," he said.

The Government increased the lump-sum payment for vaccine-damaged children from £40,000 to £100,000 nearly two years ago. It also agreed to provide top-up payments to past recipients.

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