Families expected to be allowed to keep benefits after Manchester attack

New policy will mean those affected by bombing at Manchester Arena can receive compensation without losing benefits.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Families expected to be allowed to keep benefits after Manchester attack” was written by Josh Halliday North of England correspondent and Helen Pidd, for The Guardian on Tuesday 13th June 2017 18.10 UTC

Grieving families that receive money from an £11m fund for victims of the Manchester Arena bombing will not have their benefits slashed, the government is expected to announce.

The rule change is set to ensure that injured survivors, and the relatives of the 22 victims who died, will not have their benefit payments cut if they receive financial support from the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund.

The move is designed to avoid a row that broke out after the 7/7 London bombing when it emerged that some seriously injured survivors had their benefits cut after receiving compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).

It remains unclear whether the benefits guarantee will apply to those who receive compensation from the CICA as well as those granted money by the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund.

It is understood that the benefits issue came up at a Cobra meeting in the aftermath of the suicide bombing at the Ariana Grande concert on 22 May, when 22 people were killed and 220 others injured.

The move is expected to be confirmed later this week by David Gauke, the newly appointed work and pensions secretary.

It came as the We Love Manchester Emergency fund passed £11.2m, of which nearly £4m will soon be divided between the families worst affected by the terror attack.

At the beginning of June an initial £1m was shared between bereaved families, victims who were in hospital for more than seven days and those who had an overnight hospital stay. On Tuesday a further £3m tranche was released to bereaved families and those who were in hospital for more than a week. They will each receive a payment of £50,000.

A Manchester city council spokeswoman said further funds would be made available to families in a phased process, with priority given to those who have been bereaved or seriously injured in the attack.

Trustees of the fund, who include Greater Manchester Police chief constable Ian Hopkins and the former Manchester city council chief executive Sir Howard Bernstein, met in Manchester on Tuesday afternoon to decide how the next tranche of payments would be distributed.

Councillor Sue Murphy, the deputy leader of Manchester city council and chair of the trustees, said: “We’ve been so moved by the public support we’ve had for the fund since it launched. To know that the world is thinking about our city and the victims has touched us all.

“Those who have been affected by this incident may need longer term support. We’re releasing early payments to go some way to alleviating any financial suffering in the short term and we’re working on plans to distribute the remaining funds. We remain grateful to everyone who has shown solidarity with the city – thank you.”

One family that had applied to the fund said they had not yet received a payment but that just having their daughter, eight, and her mother home from hospital was more important. “Should we receive any money we would be very grateful, but having the normality is the most important thing,” said the injured girl’s father, who did not want to be named.

The We Love Manchester Emergency Fund received £2.7m in donations from more than 450,000 people during Ariana Grande’s One Love Manchester concert, held at Old Trafford cricket ground 13 days after the attack.

Recent donations to the appeal include a guitar donated by Kiss frontman Gene Simmons, signed by him and with a personal message, an England rugby union shirt signed by the 2016 England squad donated by Aviva, a signed golf bag from the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and the WWE title belt donated by WWE UK. The items will be auctioned through the British Red Cross eBay account in the coming few weeks, Manchester council said.

Payments from the We Love Manchester Emergency fund are separate from the compensation fund managed by the Ministry of Justice-sponsored body, CICA, which has said it is ready to receive applications from victims of the Manchester and London Bridge terror attacks.

CICA was heavily criticised in the immediate aftermath of the London bombings in July 2005 when it took three months to issue compensation to seriously injured victims of the blast, many of whom had to quit work and make huge alterations to their home.

The then-work and pensions secretary David Blunkett also came under fire when it emerged that survivors and bereaved families had their benefits payments reduced after they had received compensation from CICA, even though many had suffered long-lasting trauma as well as significant physical injuries.

CICA paid out £11m to victims of the 7/7 attack by July 2010, with payouts ranging from £500,000 for those who suffered the worst injuries, to £1,000 for those who suffered smoke inhalation. A separate body, the London Bombings Relief Charitable Fund, distributed a further £12m in donations to bereaved families and survivors.

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