Northern Ireland

Lord Peter Hain: UK government should extend Troubles victims payment scheme deadline

The former NI secretary of state said he believes there is a real danger people will miss out on a tax free lump sum payment

Former secretary of state Peter Hain
Former Northern Ireland secretary of state Peter Hain

The UK government should extend the deadline for the Troubles victims payment scheme “in the interests of fairness and compassion”, a former Northern Ireland secretary of state has said.

Lord Peter Hain has said he believes there is a real danger that many people severely injured during the Troubles will miss out on a tax free lump sum payment.

In a letter to the current secretary of state, Chris Heaton-Harris, Lord Hain has urged him to extend the deadline beyond August this year.

The Troubles Permanent Disability Payment (TPDP) scheme offers payments to those who suffered physical or psychological injuries during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

A significant element of the victims payment legislation is a one-off, tax-free payment backdated to the Stormont House Agreement of December 2014 in addition to the monthly ‘pension’.

There is, however, a sunset clause in the legislation which means that to get the backdated lump sum, applications have to be with the Victims Payment Board by the end of August this year.

After that, successful applicants will receive the pension element only.

Lord Hain had introduced the amendment to the Northern Ireland Bill which established the scheme, which came after a campaign driven by the WAVE Trauma Centre.

In his letter to Mr Heaton Harris, Lord Hain said: “As you know the whole scheme had to be built from scratch and it has proved to be more complex than was anticipated not least because of the time needed to retrieve medical records - where they exist - particularly in cases of psychological trauma.

“As a result WAVE, for example, now has a significant backlog of applicants.

“But there are also people who are eligible to apply to the scheme who simply do not know of its existence.

“This is especially the case in Great Britain.

“A delegation from WAVE recently attended a memorial event to mark the 50th anniversary of the IRA bombing of a coach carrying military and civilian personnel on the M62 in West Yorkshire.

“There they met a number of people, including military veterans, who on the face of it would be eligible to apply, but had no knowledge of the scheme.”

Lord Hain added: “Given the scheme is due to close to new applicants at the end of August 2026, I would urge you to extend the back dating element to that date in the interests of fairness and compassion”.

Sandra Peake of WAVE Trauma Centre said Stormont officials indicated the pension scheme would cost £165 million. Picture by Cliff Donaldson.
Sandra Peake of WAVE Trauma Centre

Dr Sandra Peake, CEO of WAVE, said: “There is no doubt that while many victims and survivors have expressed their frustration that the process of coming to a determination can be protracted those who come through it successfully have their lives transformed.

“The backdated lump sum is a crucial part of that.”

She added: “It would be a shame if those who are eligible to apply, but for whatever reason cannot meet the August 2024 deadline were to miss out on the lump sum”.