Missed Deadlines Mean Misery for Victims and Survivors

The Commissioner for Victims and Survivors has highlighted a catalogue of missed deadlines that is causing delay, deprivation and distress for thousands of victims and survivors of the troubles. She has called on the Northern Ireland Executive and the Northern Ireland Office to urgently publish clear dates for implementation.

  • The Northern Ireland Executive has confirmed that structures to implement the Victims Payment Scheme, which is due to open at the end of May, are not in place. Payments for those who qualify will be backdated to23 December 2014 and the Commission is receiving calls every day from distressed people asking when they can expect to be able to apply to the scheme.
  • The legacy legislation which was promised 100 days following the re-establishment of the Assembly has not appeared and on 18 March 2020 the Secretary of State, in a written ministerial statement, announced “significant changes” to  the Legislation  consulted on to deliver the Stormont House Agreement.  No further public consultation has taken place on the detail of those changes and no schedule for legislation to be laid has been announced. Victims and survivors now have no idea what is actually going to come forward and are fearful that legislation will be rushed through that may suit a Westminster agenda but does little for all victims and survivors of the conflict living across the UK and beyond.
  • It has also been revealed that work on delivering the much-needed Regional Trauma Network has been suspended due to the current COVID-19 crisis without communication to victims and survivors or a process in place to re-cover this vital service.  The mental health impact of the Troubles on society are now being reflected in some of the highest rates of trauma, self-harm and suicide across our community.

“I have raised all of these issues with the relevant authorities and am disappointed to report that we have been met with sympathy but no hard answers on how progress will be made,” said the Commissioner.

Speaking as the deadline for establishment of the Victims Payment Scheme is due, Judith Thompson said that while she and the Victims and Survivors Forum were painfully aware of the added pressures on all areas of Government due to the COVID-19 response, it was nevertheless their responsibility to ensure that legally binding commitments were delivered on.

“If there are going to be delays then the very least that can be done is to be honest with those people who have already suffered the most in our society. It is incumbent on both the Northern Ireland Executive and the Northern Ireland Office to tell them why there have been delays and be clear on when they can expect to see progress.

“It has been made clear to me that victims and survivors are not only deeply distressed but very angry that once again they are made to feel expendable. It is one thing to fight for years to get agreement on victim’s payment but quite another to be made to wait for delivery once agreement has been gained.

“We do not want a situation where Government has to be challenged in court by elderly victims and survivors to get what they have been promised.

“While there may be a reason for delay, there is simply no excuse for a complete lack of communication, detailed future timeframes and interim payments where appropriate to demonstrate goodwill.

“That is the very least that can be done for victims and survivors who have suffered enough.”

For further information or enquiries, please contact Sheila Davidson on 07785793672.