Victims and Survivors: Funding

Oral Answers to Questions — Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:00 pm on 7th March 2016.

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Photo of Sandra Overend Sandra Overend UUP 2:00 pm, 7th March 2016

1. Mrs Overend asked the First Minister and deputy First Minister what departmental funding streams are available to local victims and survivors groups, other than the through the Victims and Survivors Service. (AQO 9780/11-16)

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

We remain committed to ensuring that victims and survivors receive the best services possible. The Victims and Survivors Service continues to be our front-line delivery body for the provision of these services. Some £14 million has been allocated to victims and survivors in this financial year, which is the highest ever opening budget for the sector.

Victims and survivors groups who meet the criteria can also apply for funding from our departmental central good relations fund. The Peace IV cooperation programme for 2014-2020 has recently been launched, and it also includes, for victims and survivors, the sum of €17·6 million. That is anticipated to open for application in autumn 2016.

Photo of Sandra Overend Sandra Overend UUP

I thank the Minister for that detail. The First Minister will know that 10% of all people who lost their lives in the Troubles were from Mid Ulster, yet less than 10% of the support funding for victims and survivors is allocated to my constituency. Is the First Minister willing to look at that anomaly and attempt to address it?

Photo of Arlene Foster Arlene Foster DUP

I thank the Member for her question. One of the concerns we have had over the years is the fact that unless victims had been affiliated to victims groups they could not access the funding. One of the ways that we are trying to deal with this is through the individual pilots that we have been running to see if there are ways that we can reach those people, and that continues to be the case. We are continuing to reach out to people who, otherwise, would not have access to the funding. We understand that it is not necessary for victims and survivors to be involved with victims groups. Some people do not want to become involved in that way, which is perfectly reasonable, but it is about how we reach those people. We are making strides to reach out to them, and we will take any suggestions in the office as to how we can do so. We will consider those suggestions, and if the Member has any particular ones, we welcome them.

Photo of Mitchel McLaughlin Mitchel McLaughlin Speaker

Before I call Mr McIlveen to ask a supplementary question, I remind the Member, as the Minister's Assembly private secretary and in line with protocol, that the question should relate specifically to a constituency matter in which he is directly involved.

Photo of David McIlveen David McIlveen DUP

I welcome the money that has been allocated for Peace IV. Will the First Minister update the House on what amount of that will be allocated to trauma services?

Photo of Arlene Foster Arlene Foster DUP

Mr McIlveen is not my PS. He was, when I was in Finance, so maybe that is the issue. The Department has been exploring opportunities to utilise Peace IV funding to try and take forward elements of the trauma-related services. The Member will be aware that my colleague the Health Minister made announcements in relation to mental health services recently in the general sense, and I very much welcome that, but we have been working, through the Peace IV steering group, to try and make sure that we have access to moneys for trauma-related services. The Victims and Survivors Service will take those issues forward on our behalf. There is €17·6 million in that victim sector, including the match funding, and we want to make sure that we draw it down and use it in the most productive way possible.

Photo of Mitchel McLaughlin Mitchel McLaughlin Speaker

I owe you an apology, Mr McIlveen, but I congratulate you on a magnificent recovery.

Photo of Gerard Diver Gerard Diver Social Democratic and Labour Party

First Minister, do you agree that the £150 million identified at Stormont House is inadequate to deal with the issues of victims and survivors and that, given the £30 million alone that is mooted for Stakeknife and the new work by the Lord Chief Justice on inquests, there is actually a need for a major uplift in the moneys required?

Photo of Arlene Foster Arlene Foster DUP

As the Member is probably aware, at the moment, we do not have access to that £150 million because there was a lack of agreement on dealing with the past. I am on record calling on the Secretary of State to release that money so that we can free up the resources that have been needed, not least by the Lord Chief Justice and, indeed, by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

I was rather alarmed to hear recently that the Chief Constable was indicating that most of his budget for dealing with the past is being, if you like, seconded to the DPP to deal with issues that have been raised by it. Those issues continue to be very much to the fore of my mind, and I reiterate that I believe that the Secretary of State needs to look at this very carefully. She has made some noises recently, which I take as being positive, on allowing some of that money to be released. I encourage her to do that so that we can deal with those elements because, despite the fact that we have no agreement on the past, those issues remain and still have to be dealt with, and I call upon her to release that money.