§ Mr. Churchill
asked the Prime Minister if she will make a statement on disbursements from the South Atlantic fund.
§ The Prime Minister
I have consulted the trustees and they are grateful for this opportunity to place on record some of the facts about the work of the South Atlantic fund. They are glad of the opportunity to correct some recent misleading reports about the conduct of the fund.
The fund was established to disburse money through existing charities. Subsequently it was registered as a charitable trust and the trust deed reflects the policy of using the existing experience and machinery of Service charities to achieve the fund's principal aim of meeting needs. Thus many individuals who have received help from the charities may not appreciate that the money they have received originated from the South Atlantic fund. The trustees quickly transferred £1.5 million to Service charities so that they had funds available to relieve immediately any hardship that came to their notice. They have applied this money to assist people in many ways, such as moving house, meeting educational expenses, expenses of visiting the injured in hospital, and the provision of suitably modified cars. Additionally some 200 charities were contacted and invited to give immediate assistance whenever required and subsequently to seek reimbursement.
The trustees anticipated that assessing the long term needs of the bereaved and injured comprehensively and compassionately could take some time as the Services would not wish to press individuals to come to terms with their situation and to decide how they wished to live their future lives. Interim grants totalling £1.9 million were therefore made through appropriate charities to the bereaved to meet their immediate needs pending completion of the longer term assessments, which are being conducted comprehensively, compassionately and as expeditiously as possible. The trustees are very conscious of the wish for speed and confidentiality in reaching settlements. Specialist charities such as BLESMA and St. Dunstans are being consulted. The trustees have also informed me that compassionate medical assessments have been conducted of those most seriously injured and interim grants totalling some £400,000 have been made to help them over the rehabilitation period, again through other charities. The trustees continue to fund interim awards on a personal and confidential basis and stress that they have so far funded only a small fraction of what will be disbursed over the next four months.