Belfast Telegraph

Support group for Troubles victims reports increasing demand for services

A service that supports individual victims of the Northern Ireland Troubles assisted an additional 1,000 more people last year, a Stormont committee heard.

More than 5,000 individuals were supported by the Victims and Survivors Service's individual needs programme in 2015/16, chair of the service Oliver Wilkinson said.

"This means that we have assisted around 1,000 more individuals than were supported last year," he told members of the Executive Office committee.

"This programme provides support in areas including direct financial assistance, chronic pain, respite breaks, disability aids, home heating and therapies in addition to bespoke personalised needs on a case-by-case basis."

Mr Wilkinson said the VSS was pleased to receive the same level of funding as last year, but warned current deliver services were not financially sustainable in the longer term.

"We are committed to finding new ways of doing things," he said.

He updated the committee on the support the VSS offers groups working in the victims' sector.

"The Victims Support Programme provides funding to 63 organisations across the region to provide support to around 12,000 victims and survivors in areas of health and wellbeing - talking therapies, life coaching, complementary therapies; and social support - welfare advice, respite breaks, befriending to name just a few," he explained.

The VSS chair said the organisation was inundated with people coming forward asking for support on a day-to-day basis.

"We are currently receiving a huge volume of incoming telephone calls and unscheduled visits from individual victims and survivors," he said.

"We opened the individual needs programme (for 2016/17) in May, more than 1,200 people dropped into our office and more than 5,000 calls were received."

Mr Wilkinson said the VSS had received 13 formal complaints in 2015/16, down from the 70 received the previous year.

He added: "Just as important, we have received 92 unsolicited messages from individuals to express their thanks and the positive impact of the funding on their lives."

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