I wish to inform the Deputy that work is underway in the Department of Health to bring forward Heads of a Bill, to provide on a statutory basis for health and personal social services for the Irish survivors of thalidomide.
By way of background to the supports currently provided to Irish survivors of thalidomide, the Deputy may be aware that following an Irish Government Decision in January 1975, the Government granted an ex-gratia sum equivalent to 4 times the German lump-sum and an ex-gratia monthly allowance for life equal to the German monthly allowance, to each of the Irish children found to have thalidomide related injuries. The German monthly payments are made by the Contergan Foundation which is established under German legislation.
There are currently 29 Irish people in receipt of ex-gratia monthly payments from my Department and all are now in their late 50s. Both the German payments and the Irish ex-gratia payments made to the survivors are exempt from tax, including DIRT and are not reckonable as means for the purpose of Social Welfare payments. The rate of payment is related to the survivors' level of thalidomide related injury.
In addition to the initial lump sum and the monthly payments for life, the supports provided to each Irish survivor include a medical card on an administrative basis regardless of means, provision of appliances, artificial limbs, equipment, housing adaptations, and access to a full range of primary care, hospital and personal social services. There is a designated senior manager in the Health Service Executive to act as a liaison with regard to the ongoing health and personal social service needs of Irish survivors.