Northern Ireland victims of the contaminated blood scandal are set to see financial support to them increased to match payments made in England.
Victims in Northern Ireland have previously received less than those in England, Scotland and Wales.
Health Minister Robin Swann confirmed annual payments would now range from £18,745 to just under £45,000.
This would bring them in line with payments made in England, which were significantly increased in April 2019.
The payment amount is dependent on diagnosis.
The funding commitment to increase payments will come to £1.1m annually.
In January and March of this year, Mr Swann announced payments to Northern Ireland victims of the scheme would match those in England for the 2019/2020 period – and this now being made permanent.
The scandal resulted in people who had haemophilia being treated with blood infected with hepatitis C or HIV in the 1970s and 1980s.
Last year, the contaminated blood inquiry heard harrowing stories from people across the UK about how lives had been destroyed by infected blood.
About 5,000 people, including 99 from Northern Ireland, were infected by what has been called “the worst scandal in the history of the NHS”.
Victims met with the health minister earlier this year to urge him to address the disparity in payments.
Northern Ireland ‘The support they need’
The health minister said he asked officials at the end of last month to bring payments in line with England, and that following the necessary approvals on Friday, this would now be going ahead.
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He acknowledged those affected had faced additional distress due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I have clearly said previously that my support is there for those affected by infected blood.” said Mr Swann.
“I will continue to strive to ensure they get the support they need and deserve.
“I am delighted to be able to announce this significant uplift in rates and I hope that this financial support will go some way to mitigate the harms and afford the best means to live as normal a life as possible.”
Mr Swann said that beneficiaries would receive notification of an uplift in their rates by letter in the coming weeks.
He said that all those affected by the scheme would be surveyed, to assess their feelings on the level of financial and psychological support.
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