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Office Of The First Minister And Deputy First Minister – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 9th November 2009.

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Photo of Allan Bresland Allan Bresland DUP 2:30 pm, 9th November 2009

2. asked the First Minister and deputy First Minister to outline the provision made for victims to date and when the proposed new victims’ service will be operational.         (AQO 319/10)

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

Funding of £36 million has been allocated to support work with victims and survivors during the three years from 2008 to 2011. There is £12·5 million for the current financial year, which is an increase of approximately £4·5 million on last year’s allocation.

Victims’ groups continue to receive funding through development grants, core funding and interim capacity funds. Individuals continue to receive support from the memorial fund.

The establishment of the Commission for Victims and Survivors and the victims’ forum has given a new focus to that work. We will publish a new victims and survivors’ strategy, which is intended to outline how we envisage work in that area progressing over the next 10 years.

Recently, public consultation was completed on proposals for a new victims and survivors’ service. We received detailed responses to our proposals from the sector. I can give the assurance that, as we work through the process of analysing those responses and agreeing how to move forward, there will be no shortfall in provision during the transition to the proposed new arrangements.

Photo of Allan Bresland Allan Bresland DUP

Will the deputy First Minister assure victims that there will be no shortfall during the transition?

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

Yes, I can provide people with that assurance. The evidence that there will be no such shortfall is the allocation of an extra £4·5 million this year, which is a substantial financial increase.

Photo of Danny Kennedy Danny Kennedy UUP

I am grateful for the deputy First Minister’s initial response. Given that the consultation period on the proposals for the service ended on 17 October 2009, will he detail any major themes to emerge from that process? Will he also outline the terms of any early representations made by the Victims’ Commissioners on that important matter?

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

It would be wrong of me to make public any themes in advance of the situation being moved forward in the way that I outlined. Although the closing date for the consultation was 16 October 2009, OFMDFM is still accepting responses from some of the key stakeholders in the sector, including the forum. It remains our intention to establish a new service as soon as possible. We are considering the consultation responses, and those will help to inform the next steps, including what form that new service will take.

We will discuss the final proposals for the service with the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister, of which the Member is the Chairperson. I assure the Member that victims and survivors will not be disadvantaged while we put the new arrangements in place, as appropriate transitional funding arrangements will be established.

Photo of Naomi Long Naomi Long Alliance

I thank the deputy First Minister for his answers thus far. One of my main concerns about the victims’ service, as it is outlined in the consultation, centres on the relationships between the service, the commission, OFMDFM and the forum. Before a new victims’ service is established, will it be possible to overcome the apparent confusion that exists, even in the consultation document, about lines of reporting and different areas of authority?

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

As we have moved along the process, we have all been learning from the new challenges. It is clear from the publication of OFMDFM’s strategy, the work on putting in place a new service and the ongoing dialogue with the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister that we all recognise the importance of ensuring a seamless transition. It is important to have a joined-up approach, and OFMDFM will endeavour to work with all the interested groups that the Member mentioned.