Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

First Ministers agree to major shake-up in victims' service

Victims Commissioner Kathryn Stone pictured at her office in Belfast City Centre

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness have moved swiftly to order a shake-up of their new service for victims of the Troubles which was slammed as "not fit for purpose".

Within a week of receiving two reports, the First Minister and Deputy First Minister have agreed to implement all their recommendations – an almost unprecedented pace for their office, where many issues often become bogged down for months.

Victims Commissioner Kathryn Stone (right) said it should mean a more streamlined service for victims and survivors who had complained they were being "re-traumatised" by the service.

In a letter to the office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, she warned the service was being characterised as an "organisation in crisis", with even people involved in its provision using the term "chaos".

"The original intention of the process was to provide a gateway to other services based on informed choice. The reality has become 'take it or leave it'," Mrs Stone added.

Now the revamp will mean changes to the relationship between the victims and survivors service – which also has a new board of directors – the Victims Commission and the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM).

Just over four months ago, on October 9, Mrs Stone told the Stormont committee that monitors OFMDFM it was a matter of "profound regret" that the commission was demanding a complete review of the service, just months after it began.

She was then commissioned to conduct an independent review of the service by Mr McGuinness and Mr Robinson, and in turn commissioned two independent reports, which were completed just over a week ago.

"All those individuals, families, groups and agencies who took part in the independent assessment will be pleased to hear that their views have been listened to, acknowledged and will be acted upon," Mrs Stone said.

Mr Robinson said: "We now have 55 recommendations and further advice from the commissioner to assist us in moving forward to get things right for victims and survivors."

Mr McGuinness added: "We are committed to ensuring the needs of vulnerable victims and survivors are met in an appropriate and timely manner."

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