SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly has questioned Justice Minister Naomi Long over her decision to award the operation of a pensions scheme for Troubles victims to Capita.
It emerged this week the company would administer the Victims’ Payment Scheme, despite their controversial handling of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) scheme. Mrs Kelly said that while it was important the scheme goes ahead as soon as possible, it must not be at the expense of subjecting victims to negative experiences.
She was speaking during an urgent oral question to the Justice Minister in the Assembly on Tuesday. Mrs Long defended the decision by the Department of Justice to award the contract to Capita.
Last week a Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (NIPSO) report found the company had “unfairly rejected” many benefit claims amid “systemic maladministration” of the PIP scheme.
Mrs Kelly told the Assembly she had represented victims of the Troubles in relation to PIP assessments. She said:
“I have little confidence in terms of how Capita currently manage that contract, as indeed we have found in the NIPSO report.”
Mrs Kelly expressed her concern that victims who have suffered mental health trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder would be subject to similar experiences. She added:
“While it is welcome the scheme is moving forward, the Minister’s statement in the Assembly today will do little to allay the fears of victims, many who suffer from debilitating physical and mental injuries. Unless the Justice Minister can offer cast iron guarantees that Capita’s running of the pensions scheme for Troubles’ victims is unrecognisable from that of PIP she should consider other options.”