Further two-month delay in opening of Troubles' pension scheme is 'real blow to victims and their families'
A FURTHER delay in the long-awaited pension for those injured in the Troubles' has been described as a "real blow to victims and their families".
President of the Victims' Payments Board, Mr Justice McAlinden said the scheme will not open as previously planned at the end of this month but instead on August 31.
He said the delay was due to the complex and detailed guidance involved in the application process.
After years of political wrangling and court actions, the pension scheme had been due to open for applications in May last year but has been plagued by setbacks.
The Court of Appeal ruled earlier this year that the Stormont executive must fund the scheme, which has been forecast to cost £1.2 billion over its lifetime and £30 million in the first year.
Justice McAlinden, who over recent days has engaged with victims' groups, said the planned opening at the end of this month would have coincided with publication of guidance on how the level of permanent disablement of applicants is to be medically assessed.
He acknowledged the delay would be "disappointing" but said it would ensure the scheme was "equitable and fair", as it would give applicants time to consider the detailed guidance.
Justice McAlinden said the Victims' Payments Board felt the June 30 opening risked "causing additional harm by raising expectations that applications need to be submitted immediately after the medical guidance is available".
“A key principle of the scheme is to be responsive to the needs of victims and I want to ensure the victims and survivors who have been waiting for the opening of the scheme that all of the diverse aspects of the process are fully effective when it opens for applications," he said.
Chair of Stormont's Executive Office Committee Colin McGrath said that while the delay was understandable, it was unfair to victims.
"Victims of the Troubles and their families have already suffered more than could ever be imagined." the SDLP MLA said.
"The scheme has been stalled for long enough over the last year due to political fall outs between the DUP and Sinn Féin and then by the British government who have shown they are totally ignorant of and detached from the realities of life in our shared home space."
He said it was "concerning" that those responsible for delivering the scheme did not consider beforehand that a complex medical assessment guide may cause problems.