The Victims’ Payment Scheme regulations were laid at Westminster in January 2020. Some of the regulations for the Scheme came into effect in February and the remainder came into effect on 29 May 2020.
It was anticipated by both Westminster and the Northern Ireland Executive that the Scheme would be open for applications from 29 May 2020.
It was not anticipated that payments would start on this date but those people who are awarded the payment will receive it backdated to 2014.
As it stands, the arrangements that are necessary to make this happen are not in place.
There are decisions still to be made as to who will fund the Victim’s Payment Scheme and a final commitment as to which Northern Ireland government department will have designated responsibility must also be made (although all indications suggest that the Scheme will sit with the Department of Justice).
The Victims’ Payment Scheme is law and it must be implemented but at present there is no timeframe for this implementation. Like all victims organisations, the Commission is doing all we can to hold Government to account, to progress implementation and ensure that there is clear communication to victims and survivors.
We are aware that the COVID-19 pandemic has created a stressful and uncertain time for many and that these delays further compound that distress.
The Victims and Survivors Service (VSS) are there to support anyone affected by victims issues and can be contacted on (028) 9027 9100 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Former Victims Commissioner, Kathryn Stone, with guidance from the WAVE Injured Group and the Victims and Survivors Forum, submitted advice to the First and deputy First Ministers on a ‘Pension for the Severely Injured’.
This advice stated that more needed to be done to help those who lost the ability to work and accrue pensions and who lost their health as a consequence of the Troubles and recommended a Victims and Survivors Pension Arrangement to address this.
In the Stormont House Agreement, the five main political parties in Northern Ireland made a commitment to seek an acceptable way forward on the proposal for a pension for severely physically injured victims in Northern Ireland.
In the absence of a Northern Ireland Executive, the Secretary of State, Karen Bradley, asked Commissioner, Judith Thompson to update the 2014 advice on a pension for the severely injured to include psychological injury.
Commissioner Judith Thompson submitted updated advice on a Victims and Survivors Pension Arrangement to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. This advice was also informed by the WAVE Injured Group, the Commission’s Pension Working Group and the Victims and Survivors Forum.
Following rounds of political engagements on the final updated advice, the Commissioner publicised and launched the VASPA advice to the wider public at an event at Stormont with extensive media coverage.
The Government at Westminster committed to establishing cross-departmental teams to deliver a Victims’ Payment if Northern Ireland remained without an Executive by 22 October.
As no Executive was in place by 22 October 2019, The Northern Ireland Office launched a public consultation on a ‘Victims’ Payment Scheme’ that same day. It was open for 5 weeks, closing on the 26 November 2019.
The Regulations for the Victims Payment Scheme are laid at Westminster. Some of these regulations came into effect by the end of February, the rest came into effect at the end of May 2020.
Following the missed deadline of 29 May, the Commissioner and the Victims and Survivors Forum wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister of the UK to deliver on this legal obligation.
The Commissioner, Forum, the WAVE Injured Group and other victims' groups continue to lobby Governments at Westminster and the Northern Ireland Executive to implement this Scheme.