Advocacy Services and Shared Learning Essential for Victims and Survivors' Healing

Structured and supported advocacy services on behalf of Victims and Survivors of the Troubles must be delivered in a way that is victim-led and compassionate. It should empower victims and survivors to have voice and agency in their journey of healing.

These are the findings within the latest European Union PEACE IV-funded research report published today by the Commission for Victims and Survivors. The PEACE IV Programme is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.

The Advocacy Services Research Report conducted by a senior team at Ulster University is the second in a series of four major projects commissioned through EU PEACE IV funding.

Presenting the findings today, Dr Maire Braniff explained that for the victims and survivors who contributed to the report, Advocacy meant, ‘giving a voice’, ‘providing support’ and ‘helping people find out the truth’.

“While the needs of Victims and Survivors are not homogenous there are core principles that underpin an effective service provision.

Essentially they should be victim-led, build trust, not create dependency, be compassionate and empathetic and value the lived experience and perspective of the individual. The groups offering advocacy were led by such principles. Further provision for dealing with the past should draw on and learn from the scale, diversity and experience of advocacy practice to date.

Equally, however, our research found that this was challenging work. There was unanimity amongst all service users and service providers that the biggest challenge was the systemic delay and the slow nature of legacy investigation and information recovery. The biggest scope for improvement in advocacy services was the accessibility of information and more streamlined and quicker responses from statutory agencies."

Responding on behalf of the Commission for Victims and Survivors, Chief Executive Andrew Sloan thanked the team at Ulster University and the Commission staff involved.

“The very core of our work in the Commission is to advocate knowledgeably and sensitively for how we can meet the ongoing and developing needs of victims and survivors.

“Doing so is vital as government develops a new Strategy for Victims and Survivors that is reflective of where Northern Ireland as a society, and those affected by the past, sit today.

“It has been more than 13 years since the signing of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement. A recent population survey we conducted found that a quarter of the population still meet that legal definition of a victim/survivor and 88% felt it important to address the legacy of the past.

“The appetite is there to do this and this Advocacy research report by Ulster University, in conjunction with the recent Queens University Report on the Transgenerational Impact of the conflict, provides us with an opportunity to inform policy makers and service providers of the need to continue to develop and prioritise this work.

“Evidence-based research, such as the four Peace IV projects we’re delivering, rooted in the lived experiences of victims and survivors, will help us to implement a roadmap through the new Victims’ Strategy on how to harness what we have learned, put into action best practice and better evaluate and resource what works.

“If we learn to treat the needs of victims and survivors as societal needs, we will build a future that offers continued peace, prosperity and growth for all.”

The project is match-funded by The Executive Office in Northern Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland.