Assessment of Troubles pensions must be ‘handled sensitively’

The face-to-face assessments for new pension arrangements for those affected by the Troubles “must be handled sensitively”, according to the victims’ commissioner.

As reported by BBC News, Judith Thompson said that people whose pension could not be calculated through their medical records must be treated sensitively in face-to-face assessments.

This follows the announcement on Friday that a judge-led board will decide who will qualify for the government payment scheme and how much they will receive.

Speaking on Good Morning Ulster, Thompson said: "We have advised that [face-to-face] assessment must be carried out sensitively and in a way that is always supported.”

For those that qualify for the scheme, annuity payments will range from £2,000 to £10,000 per year.

The scheme looks to support innocent victims of the Troubles in Northern Ireland during the second half of the 20th century.

Thompson continued: "For paper-based assessment the principle is there in this legislation. If you have medical records going back for decades - whether those are of psychological or physical injury - then the panel will attempt to make a decision on your injuries based on those.

"Only when it is not possible to do that will face-to-face assessment be used.

"We have advised that that assessment must be carried out sensitively and in a way that is always supported.

"There isn't a way of guaranteeing an assessment will not be traumatic - there just isn't. So you do as little of it as you can, you build in support for anyone considering taking part in that process.

"Even if those people do not come away from this process with a cash payment, they should come away from it with a clear understanding of what can make their lives better and an offer of that help."

However, the plans have come under criticism from some, with the BBC reporting that Sinn Féin's Chris Hazzard said the rule created a "hierarchy of victims".

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