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Sue Phipps’ Evidence

On the 12th March 2021 evidence was heard from Sue Phipps, Trustee of the Eileen Trust from 1993 to 2017. Ms Phipps spoke about her experience in publishing and her role as a Consultant for the Wellcome Trust in which she had written documents used for communication purposes to convey messages about HIV to the heterosexual male community.  She highlighted the issue of stigma of HIV/AIDS and the circulation of misinformation concerning these viruses.

Ms Phipps was questioned by Inquiry Counsel of her involvement in the setting up of the Eileen Trust (ET) and the appointing of Trustees. She was asked whether she knew why the ET had to involve Trustees from the MacFarlane Trust (MFT) and whether she was aware that the Secretary of State for Health had the power to refuse and/or appoint Trustees. She explained she had been aware of this, and the appointing of Trustees from the MacFarlane Trust (MFT was considered to be an advantage to the Trust.) Ms Phipps went on to explain the roles and responsibilities of individual  ET staff members, with Susan Daniels being the caseworker with responsibility for the application process.

Inquiry Counsel made reference to the March 1994 Annual Report and questioned Ms Phipps on the policy objectives and eligibility of regular payments to beneficiaries. She explained that at the beginning the numbers of beneficiaries was small but increased as time went on.

Ms Phipps was questioned about the guidance used by ET and the rate of regular payments post-Archer for the infected and their relatives and dependents i.e. £18,000 for single beneficiaries and £30,000 for beneficiaries with partners. She explained how dependents of a deceased person would get a lump sum of £1,000 upon the death of their partner/husband and then continue to get the regular payments six months after death, although there was inconsistency and for some even a longer period. She went on to explain the provision for orphans and young children. Ms Phipps was questioned on the application process for single grants and the use of the handbook guidelines.  She explained the guidelines in the handbook were not used in assessment and that assessment was on a case by case basis. She said they actively  encouraged registrants to apply for grants and spoke to registrants about what they were entitled to. The Trust considered this to be a fairer process.

Ms Phipps was asked about the funding of the Trust. She explained in the early years the ET had been wary of upsetting the Department of Health because of risk of reduction in funding.  She also spoke about the funding bid prepared by Peter Stevens in 2006 and Caroline Flint, Minister of State’s response to this. The Minister claimed she would give an increase of £400,000, approximately 11%, to the MFT and ET Trusts but in reality, Ms Phipps said the percentage was much lower and the Minister had not been truthful about the figures. She considered the ET should have done more about this at the time. Sir Brian considered the explanation of the position could have been explained more clearly to registrants on the ET website and wondered why ET had not used the figures to embarrass the government.  Ms Phipps was unable to answer this question.

Ms Phipps said in hindsight ET would have preferred to have more money from the DoH so that the registrants did not need to apply for single grants.

Ms Phipps was asked about the actions taken by ET to identify new registrants.  She explained the DoH identified the potential registrants and then ET approached them to engage. However not all registrants did choose to engage with the ET for various reasons. Other methods for contacting potential registrants were looking in newspapers for articles e.g. the Liverpool incident where five people were reported with HIV. ET had contacted them and got two new registrants from this. She agreed however, that the ET did not have the resources to do more and it had been beyond their capabilities.

Ms Phipps’ evidence concluded with questions from CPs.


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