Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme: small change in law with big impact for the vaccine injured and bereaved
On Friday 7 July 2023 campaigning group Vaccine Injured and Bereaved UK (VIBUK)  were informed that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) finally agreed to change the law to ensure that all individuals bereaved as a result of vaccination who receive a payment under the Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme (VDPS), will have that payment disregarded for the purposes of means-tested benefits, such as Universal Credit.
After more than a year of campaigning by VIBUK, supported by Hausfeld , and months of financial uncertainty for those affected, The Social Security (Income and Capital Disregards) (Amendment) Regulations 2023 , that came into force on Friday 7 July 2023 mean that bereaved families and individuals who receive VDPS payments will now have the same protections regarding means-tested benefits as other victims, such as those affected by the 7 July bombings, the Manchester Arena bombings and those affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
Data provided by The Department of Health and Social Care indicates that so far 239 bereaved claimants could have been adversely affected if a VDPS payment would have been included as part of their capital when calculating entitlement to means-tested benefit.
Sheila Ward, a member of campaigning group VIBUK, explained:
“This is an important victory for those bereaved as a result of vaccination, who are receiving means-tested benefits. If we had not pushed for this change in law, those grieving the loss of a loved one would have been rendered even more financially vulnerable by the fact of receiving a VDPS payment. That made no sense, hence our campaign for reform. We are pleased that the Government has come to its senses on this point”.
Aaron Bell MP, who has supported his constituent Mrs Ward and VIBUK with this campaign commented:
“I am absolutely delighted that we have convinced the Government to make this change. I am extremely grateful to Guy Opperman MP, the Minister for Employment, for listening to the points I raised on behalf of my constituent Sheila Ward and doing the right thing."
“I’d also like to pay tribute to Sheila - I do not believe this change would have been made without her efforts. And I am personally very pleased to have played a part in bringing about this important change in the law, which addresses a real injustice for an already vulnerable and bereaved group of people.”
For Vikki Spit who lost her long-term partner as a result of a rare complication of the AstraZeneca COVID19 this has been a personal battle. Ms Spit commented:
“I am so thrilled that we have managed to change this legislation. I was devastated when on receipt of the VDPA payment my Universal credit was stopped. I was suffering with (and still am) depression, anxiety, PTSD, panic attacks and insomnia after the sudden death of Zion from the AZ vaccine. To learn that I would then have had to live off of the pittance I was awarded for his death added insult to injury. This will make things much less stressful for those in the future, and I can only hope my claim will be backdated.”
Sarah Moore partner at Hausfeld LLP, who has been supporting the VIBUK campaign, explained the wider significance of this shift in the law:
"The injured who receive a VDPS payment can place the funds into a personal injury trust, but such trusts are not available to the bereaved. The Regulation was created to help those receiving compensation following national tragedies which is why it was so important that those bereaved as a result of the COVID19 Vaccine were included."
Sarah Moore, further reflects:
“This is the first time since the Pandemic hit that the Government has finally acknowledged, through statutory amendment, the plight of individuals affected by injury and bereavement after receiving the COVID19 vaccine. Many of those affected have felt forgotten or ignored by the Government to date. We can only hope that the Government will now do more, notably considering a formal review of the VDPA including the requirement that payments can only be made to those who are rendered 60% disabled through vaccination, and by raising the maximum payment cap beyond the current amount of £120,000”.
“This is doubtless a significant victory for VIBUK – but there is much work still to be done. The Vaccine Damage Payment Act remains an antiquated piece of legislation that offers too little support to too few people and the campaign for its reform will continue”.
Questions remain as to whether this change in the law will be backdated so that lost benefits will be repaid to individuals who have had their means-tested benefits reduced as a result of receiving a VDPS payment.
VIBUK is a group made up of individuals and families all of whom suffered life-changing injuries or bereavement as a result of severe adverse reactions to COVID19 vaccination. They are pushing for reform of the Vaccine Damage Payment Act 1979 to ensure that it offers a fair and proper safety net for those who suffer the tragedy of being injured or bereaved through vaccination. To date, the Government has ignored all requests that the VDPA is reviewed more comprehensively.
Module 4 of the COVID19 Inquiry will look at Vaccines and Therapeutics specifically, including the workings of the VDPA. VIBUK and other experts will be looking to Lady Hallett to provide a thorough review of how the legislation works at present and how it can be reformed.
BBC - MP Aaron Bell welcoming change in law
1 Families fighting for VDPS reform UK compensation scheme... | Find Others
2 Hausfeld | COVID-19 vaccine injury
3 Explanatory Memorandum here: The Social Security (Income and Capital Disregards) (Amendment) Regulations 2023 (legislation.gov.uk)