The Commission for Victims & Survivors

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by The Commission for Victims & Survivors's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from The Commission for Victims & Survivors is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Commissioner Judith Thompson
Some members of the
Victims and Survivors Forum
The Commission for Victims and Survivors for Northern
Ireland was established in 2008 having been founded
in legislation in 2006. It acts in support of the rights of
all victims of the conflict to be heard, to be respected and
to have access to services that are the best that they can
be. The Commission is, in law, the primary source of advice
to government in Northern Ireland and in Westminster on
issues affecting victims and survivors of the Troubles in
Northern Ireland. As the Commissioner, Judith Thompson has
responsibility for the strategic assessment of need and ensuring
that the correct structures are in place to meet those needs.
Judith was appointed by Northern Ireland’s First and deputy
First Ministers to help give a voice to victims and survivors. She
The Parliamentary Review
how about her determination to
make that voice heard in order to see real progress in dealing
with the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past.
Based in Belfast, I am supported by a team of 11 staff. A touchstone of my work is
the insight provided by the Victims and Survivors Forum. The Forum is established
in legislation and appointed by myself. Its members are all victims and survivors of
the Troubles and their key purpose is to consult and discuss issues and needs that
affect victims or survivors; they are a voice to reflect the interests of all victims and
promote reconciliation.
»Commissioner: Judith Thompson
»Established in 2008
»Located in Belfast, Northern
»Services: Policy development
and research, promoting and
reflecting the interests of
victims and survivors of the
Northern Ireland conflict
»No. of employees: 11
»Convenes a forum of
volunteer victims and survivors
as a place for consultation on
victims’ issues
The Commission for
Victims & Survivors
Highlighting best practice
Victims and Survivors Forum
In all of the Commission’s work the
Victims and Survivors Forum is key.
Forum members are a diverse group
and are broadly representative of
different community and religious
backgrounds, gender and geographic
location. It includes individuals harmed
by the range of different organisations
within the conflict and are also
representative of the different types of
harm caused (physical and psychological
injury, carers of those injured and those
who have been bereaved). Forum
members work together to advise the
Commission and to place victims at the
heart of policy and legislation.
I have laid policy advice before the
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
on the proposed institutions for
addressing the legacy of Northern
Ireland’s past. I believe it is important
that policymakers take time to get
this Westminster legislation right. The
proposed Historical Investigations
Unit, the Independent Commission on
Information Retrieval, the Oral History
Achieve and the Implementation
and Reconciliation Group need to be
designed and implemented in a way
that best meets the diverse needs
of all those who were harmed. My
position has drawn on advice from
the Victims and Survivors Forum who
have collectively agreed key guiding
principles which must underpin the
design and implementation of the
proposed institutions: co-design
and collaboration, victim centred,
independence and impartiality,
inclusivity and fit for purpose.
During the Northern Ireland Office’s
period of consultation on ‘Addressing
the Legacy of Northern Ireland’s Past’
(May to October 2018), we engaged
with stakeholders extensively across
the UK and Ireland. It was clear that
for many families and former state
personnel outside of Northern Ireland,
including those impacted by the
Manchester, Birmingham and London
bombs, their issues in relation to
truth, justice, acknowledgement and
reparations remain the same as those in
Northern Ireland, however their access
routes are not always tailored to meet
those needs and as a consequence
many are left with unanswered
questions and a need for support.
There is also urgency to implement
other elements of the Stormont
House Agreement and in particular a
pension for those severely physically
and psychologically injured. Many
of those who were most severely
injured received inadequate, or even
derisory compensation payments and
face poverty as they grow older. The
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
has asked me for updated policy advice
on a special pension for these people.
This is a matter of great importance
and urgency which must be addressed
by Westminster in the continued
absence of a NI Assembly.
Research based approach
Mitigating the effects of 40 years of
conflict is a tall order for any one office.
Research conducted in 2010 indicated
that around one in three people in
Northern Ireland would meet the
definition of a victim of theconflict.
To be able to
move on as a
peaceful and
shared society,
we have to
deal with a
painful past
that it still
affects the
More recent research through an
Omnibus Survey in 2017 reiterates
the ongoing impact, with 26% of
the population in Northern Ireland
continuing to be affected by a conflict-
related incident.
It is paramount to ensure there is a
strong evidence base in representing all
victims and survivors of the Troubles.
In 2012 the Commission published a
Comprehensive Needs Assessment.
This research informed government of
the services required to improve the
quality of life for victims and survivors
and to create the conditions where
they can help build a better future. In
2016 we worked in partnership with
the Victims and Survivors Service to
produce revised standards for service
delivery in order to ensure consistently
high-quality services in relation to
health and wellbeing, advocacy,
social support and resilience-building
regardless of an individual’s point of
access or geographical location.
Put broadly the research from
2012 identified four key areas of
need as being access to a truth
recovery process, a justice pathway,
acknowledgement of harm caused,
and reparations for that harm. In 2012,
further research was published by the
Commission on Historical Investigations
and Information Recovery pointing
out the shortcomings of the existing
mechanisms which were clearly
not meeting the needs of victims
and survivors or of wider society. In
February 2014 the Commission hosted
a Dealing with the Past conference,
attended by over 200 policy makers,
service providers and individual victims
and survivors and published a policy
advice which was ultimately reflected
in the Stormont House Agreement
later that same year.
The areas of need identified for victims
and survivors are complex, inter-
connected and continually evolving.
Initially, much of the research and
policy advice developed were very
specific to the region of Northern
Ireland. More recently I have identified
many individuals who were affected by
the period of conflict but who resided
outside Northern Ireland and often felt
isolated and forgotten when it came to
addressing theirharm.
I believe that the Commission has
a very important role to play in the
next few years in all of these matters
and also particularly in engaging
in progressive dialogue that is
compassionate, considerate and helps
individuals to understand perspectives
that are alien to their own experiences.
If you start from the very fundamental
point, the one thing everybody agrees
on, it’s that this must never happen
again. Ask people if they want to see
a way of building for the future that
looks after people and you won’t have
If you start
from the very
point, it’s that
this must
never happen
Members of the Victims
and Survivors Forum
with the Commissioner

This article was sponsored by The Commission for Victims & Survivors. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister