Service for Troubles victims and survivors gets funding reassurance
Changes to how services are provided to Troubles victims and survivors in Northern Ireland have to be implemented without any cuts to funding, the chairman of the delivery body has said.
Oliver Wilkinson said he had received Stormont assurances that the annual £13 million-plus budget of the Victims and Survivors Service (VSS) would be maintained over the coming three years.
The VSS chairman said the service's overall operating budget was set to increase in the time ahead, as the organisation had secured an additional £13 million from a European Union peace funding programme.
"We have been given very clear indications that, with good will, we will have secure funding over the next three years in order to ensure that this constituency of people are given as good a service as possible," he said.
Mr Wilkinson moved to provide reassurance to the thousands of victims the VSS supports directly or indirectly after it started rolling out changes to how it facilitates certain services.
In the past, individual victims have received annual payments, a proportion of which were earmarked for paying for care such as private counselling and therapy.
A reconfiguration of the VSS's working practices, which was endorsed by victims' representatives, means it will now fund those types of services directly.
As a consequence, cash payouts to individual victims are decreasing but the treatment they used that money to pay for is now being offered for free.
"There is no reduction in support to victims and survivors," Mr Wilkinson insisted.
"We are continuing on the basis that the funding we have this year is the funding we have next year.
"We are very pleased the Assembly has prioritised services for victims and survivors. They have said everything they can to convince us they are not going to cut money."
Last year, the VSS provided financial support to 5,800 individuals and supported 55 victims groups that in turn work with 12,000 people.