Troubles victims reluctant to meet VSS in city: CEO

Victims unwilling to meet in Londonderry.
Victims unwilling to meet in Londonderry.

Some victims of the Troubles from Londonderry are unwilling to meet with the Victims and Survivors Service (VSS) in the city and others are even reluctant to meet the service in its Belfast office.

Chief Executive Annie Dorbie said: “We do not have any actual statistics on how people prefer to approach us. What I can say is that, of people who live in Derry, a number of them say that they want to come to Belfast to be seen.

“They do not want to be seen locally, or else they want to be seen off-site. We have done assessments in libraries and health centres. Anonymity is important to victims and survivors, and we respect that.”

Ms Dorbie made the claim during a recent briefing of the Committee for the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister at Stormont.

The VSS provides support and assistance to those identified as victims under the Victims and Survivors (Northern Ireland) Order 2006.

This includes people who have been injured as a result of a conflict-related incident (physically or psychologically); those who care for a loved one who have been injured in this way; and those who have been bereaved as a result of a conflict-related incidents.

Groups funded by VSS in Londonderry include Aurora Counselling, CALMS, Cúnamh, Derry Well Woman, Eglinton Building Bridges and HURT (Have Your Tomorrows).

The OFMDFM Committee was told that the VSS office in Great Victoria Street in Belfast has between 50 and 60 regular visitors.

East Londonderry MLA George Robinson queries why the VSS doesn’t have an office in the North West. It currently has two offices - one in Belfast and one in Dungannon.

Mr Robinson commented: “My concern is how you get the message out to the general public, groups, and so on, about where you are based. Would it not be better to have satellite offices? Northern Ireland is a fairly big area to service.”

He added: “Quite a lot of groups out there need to know that you are there and how to get in touch with you. There is the telephone, email and all that sort of thing, but I am sure that lots of people prefer to speak to you face to face.”

Last year the Sentinel revealed that payments made to victims of the Troubles via the VSS wouldn’t be sheltered from impending welfare cuts, whilst payments made to victims of the London bombings of 2005 would be.

Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland has explained: Mr McCausland explained: “Payments to victims of the Troubles are made by the VSS, based on individual assessed needs and the provision of high-quality services to meet those needs.

“The VSS is currently set up as a company limited by guarantee and payments made from it cannot be disregarded for income-related benefit purposes as they are not from a charitable source.”