Troubles payments: Westminster urged to extend application deadline

A soldier stands by a burning van in Belfast in 1981
[Getty Images]

The UK government has been urged to extend the deadline for a Troubles victims payment scheme.

The Troubles Permanent Disability Payment (TPDP) scheme is open for applicants until August 2026.

It offers payments to those who suffered physical or psychological injuries in the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

However, an element of the scheme - a one-off, tax-free payment backdated to 2014 - will soon close for applicants.

A sunset clause in legislation means that to get the backdated lump sum, applications have to be submitted by the end of August this year.

After that, successful applicants will only receive the monthly element of the payment scheme.

'Fairness and compassion'

Former Northern Ireland secretary Lord Peter Hain - who introduced the amendment to the Northern Ireland Bill which established the scheme - has written to the current Secretary of State, Chris Heaton-Harris, asking him to consider extending the back payment deadline.

In his letter, Lord Hain highlighted reasons why the cut-off point should be excluded, including backlogs caused by delays in obtaining medical records.

He also told Mr Heaton-Harris that there are people who are eligible to apply to the scheme who do not know of its existence.

Lord Hain
Lord Hain, who was Northern Ireland secretary from 2005 to 2007, has urged Chris Heaton-Harris to extend an element of the scheme [BBC]

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

Victims' support group the Wave Trauma Centre has called the backdated sum a "crucial part" of the scheme.

"It allows essential house repairs to be done," its chief executive Sandra Peake said."It allows those who are elderly and simply do not have the time to sit on seemingly endless waiting lists to get much-needed pain-relieving surgery."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."

What is the Troubles payment scheme?

The scheme, also known as the victims' pension - was originally set up in law by the Westminster government in 2020, to provide pensions to people who suffered physically and/or psychologically during the Troubles.

The level of payment could range from about £2,000 to £10,000 per year, depending on the extent of the applicant's disability.

The scheme will be open in total for five years from the date it first launched on 31 August 2021.

It is being run by the The Victims' Payment Board, which determines each application and administers the fund.

However, some victims' groups have been critical of the decision-making process and the length of time it takes.

In January, BBC News NI reported that more than 40 people who applied to the scheme have died before any decision was made.

As of December 2023, a total of 6,209 applications had been received by the board.

Of these, 955 determinations were made, with 630 applicants deemed eligible to receive a payment and 325 ineligible.

The board said it prioritises applications from those who are terminally ill or those who are over 80 years old, and works "as quickly as possible".

The board has previously issued guidance that some paramilitary-style attacks do not fall within the definition of a Troubles-related incident.

It determined that members of a paramilitary group acting as vigilantes against "a person who was engaged in or was perceived as being engaged in 'anti-social behaviour' or crime" should not fall within its remit.