So, the Government has pronounced. They have offered a further grant to keep UKDL going until March 2012 while they consider alternative options. This means that the organisation can get on with processing the almost 70 Expressions of Interest registered since the BBC1 documentary on 30th August, but absolutely does not mean that it has the secure future that it needs and deserves.
In a letter dated 5th September the Minister, Anne Milton, said ‘I am keen for options to be considered in the next few months, bearing in mind the difficulties that have been encountered in sorting out a more settled future for the register’. It is odd, however, that she went on to suggest that an application may be made to the Department’s Innovation, Excellence and Strategic Development Fund when it was just this fund that turned down an application from UKDL for a three year grant in 2010 on the grounds that the organisation did not meet the eligibility criteria. There is no evidence from looking at the website that these criteria have changed since that time.
The government is in a bit of a sticky situation here. In 2002 a judgement was made in a High Court test case against them that led to the setting up of the UK Donor Link pilot in 2004. Both this government and the last one have agreed that the pilot was successful and should become permanent. Nothing has changed. The government would have liked the HFEA, now in the process of being swallowed by the Care Quality Commission, to take it over but they refused on the very reasonable grounds that they were not going to be given additional money to run the service. They recognised that UKDL’s register is quite different to the one that they run for post August 1991 conceptions in that DNA testing is required for accurate matching of donors, half-siblings and offspring prior to this date. The government knows that legal challenges may well result if UKDL is allowed to close down and so it is possible that it will be found that the organisation does magically fit the criteria for the grant fund they have named. One could be cynical, but if it results in some financial security instead of the current uncertainty of lurching from one month to the next, then that would at least be something.
UKDL is still not safe. Please continue to send letters to Anne Milton and sign the petition on the UKDL website http://www.ukdonorlink.org.uk