Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland's Victims and Survivors' Service heavily criticised

By Michael McHugh

Many bereaved victims of Northern Ireland's conflict decided not to apply for financial help after those who did were left stressed and frustrated, a victims' group has claimed.

Calls were not returned, claims to cover the cost of befriending or counselling were delayed and onerous paperwork requirements left some who lost loved ones feeling it was not worth using the Victims and Survivors' Service (VSS), a report from the Wave Trauma Centre said.

Wave, Northern Ireland's largest victims' group, has helped relatives in the hunt for those abducted and killed by the IRA, known as the Disappeared. Among its members are Alan McBride, whose wife died in the 1993 IRA Shankill Road fish shop bomb.

A report from the centre said: "Many victims, particularly the bereaved, have decided against participating in assessments.

"Those who have participated in assessments have been stressed and frustrated by the failure of VSS staff to return calls or be able to adequately advise on the progress of a case."

The service was established by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in April last year to channel £20m Executive funding to those who need it most. It provides money for therapies and counselling for those injured during the 30-year conflict.

Victims Commissioner Kathryn Stone has claimed the service made people feel like "beggars" and alleged the assessment process was not fit for purpose.

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