Belfast Telegraph

Former part time officers helped

Almost £400,00 has been made available to help former part time police officers, it was confirmed.

The fund totalling £383,000 has been set up by Justice Minister David Ford and will be distributed to charities within the policing family.

It comes on top of individual payments which were made available from a £20 million gratuity scheme for former reservists established in 2010.

"I am pleased to announce the setting up of a new fund to support former part time reservists, their dependents and the surviving partners of past members. These are people who have served Northern Ireland well and the new support programme will help those most in need.

"The fund, totalling £383,000, will be disbursed by charities within the policing family. My department is currently developing the programme and arrangements for distribution of the funds. I hope that the first awards can be made in this financial year."

The gratuity scheme for members of the police part-time reserve was a key part of the financial deal for the devolution of policing and justice.

Ross Hussey, chairman of the RUC George Cross Association Part Time Officers Welfare Group said he was disappointed the Minister had consulted more on how this latest funding would be spent.

"We were talking with the Minister about how this money could be distributed and I would have liked the part time welfare group to have been informed of the Minister's decision.

"Some officers have 30, 35 or 40 years service but have no pension for that role and they could be in financial difficulties; others marriages may have broken up as a result of their service while others could be in ill-health and need support as a result of their service."

SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly, who sits on the Policing Board, has questioned whether establishing the new fund is the best use of the money.

She said: "I am surprised that there has not been more discussion with the Policing Board about this.

"I am sure there are gaps in provision for former police officers but, there are gaps in terms of victims groups.

"It would be interesting to see how the money is going to be spent and if it is the best use of funding within the current climate."

Sinn Fein's Raymond McCartney, who is deputy chair of the Stormont justice committee said vast sums of public money had already been made available to support former police officers and claimed the Department of Justice had not been open about funding arrangements for some groups working.

He said: "T he Department has already demonstrated a lack of openness, accountability and regulation in relation to existing funding arrangements for some groups working with former police officers.

"The scandal of retiring and rehiring reveals serious shortcomings by the department. That is unacceptable and needs to be conclusively resolved. In addition, the department has created a legal fiasco where PSNI officers, such as Peadar Heffron, are injured on duty but denied compensation. This announcement doesn't deal with any of these outstanding problems."

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