The DUP representative made the call during the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee this week in Westminster, where representatives of the Victims Payment Board gave evidence.
Carla Lockhart said:
“It is vital that those who continue to live with the physical and mental scars of terrorism inflicted upon them, are given the support they need by Government to live their lives.
Getting the Scheme has been a hard fight, even having to go to court in 2020 to expose and overturn Sinn Fein’s “unlawful” blocking of the pension being progressed. Together with innocent victims, we fought hard to secure a Troubles Permanent Disablement Payment Scheme in recognition and support of these victims but it is now imperative that the process works with the needs of victims to the fore.
Whilst some victims are having their applications processed in a reasonable period of time, some are facing delays of up to 26 months still with no response. It must be remembered that for many victims, this process can retraumatise. It is too long for any applicant to go through such a prolonged process. Furthermore, we must be cognisant of the impact of both physical and psychological assessments on applicants in terms of re-traumatisation.
This can be a challenging process, and I pressed home the need for organisations that support innocent victims of terrorism to be resourced to assist victims. Further resource is also needed to ensure awareness of the scheme is maximised not just in Northern Ireland, but right across Great Britain.
Additionally during the session, I called on the NI Affairs Committee to engage with the Secretary of State regarding the fact that the current scheme is now over two years (August 2021). At the end of year 3 (August 2024) the backdated provision expires (payments backdated to 2008) and will no longer be awarded to claimants. It would be wholly unfair if someone submitted their application at August 2024 and they did not get the claim backdated.
I also raised the fact that the provision on “being present at, or in the immediate aftermath of a Troubles Related Incident” is causing major difficulty particularly with former members of the Security Forces who had to attend and witness horrendous scenes whilst on duty. Yet, they are deemed as ineligible because they were “on duty” and the need for the SOS to intervene on this matter.
It is vital that the needs of victims are addressed. This includes in the administration of the support schemes that are in place, and that we always remember the trauma and suffering of victims of terror.”