Troubles shooting survivor urges victims to apply for payments

Troubles shooting survivor urges victims to apply for payments

8 September 2021

A SURVIVOR of a UDA shooting is encouraging local people left permanently injured from a Troubles-related incident to apply to the new Victims’ Payment Scheme. 

Peter Heathwood from Killough is a member of the WAVE Injured Group which has campaigned since 2012 for financial support for those injured during the violence.

The scheme finally opened for applications last week after the group had to seek a legal ruling for the Stormont Executive to cover the costs.

Mr Heathwood was left paralysed after being shot in front of his wife in his North Belfast home on September 27, 1979.

His father Hubert died from a heart attack after seeing his son injured and Mr Heathwood’s wife Anne was later diagnosed with PTSD and died at the age of 51.

The 67 year-old welcomed the opening of the Victims Payment Scheme and said: “It’s a terrific thing that it’s now here. We welcome it, but it’s a mixed blessing as well. There are five of the group who died and didn’t make it to see this happen, the last one being Paddy Cassidy who died last year 

“I would just encourage everybody who thinks they are entitled to apply to do so. I don’t think anyone knows how many people this will apply to as there was so many people injured.”

Mr Heathwood explained that the scheme — which will be administered by Capita — will assess applicants on an industrial injuries basis where the payment will be determined on the level of permanent injury, whether physical or psychological.

“It will open up a few old wounds for people but the Department of Justice and Judge McAlinden, president of the Victims Payment Board, have made it clear that he does not want anyone to be retraumatised,” he explained.

“There will be questions about the injury, how it happened and a question if you applied to the Victims Survivor Service (VSS) and information will be sought from them and the police.

“They are trying to avoid face to face interviews so will rely on information they can gather from the system.There will be some bureaucracy connected with it no doubt and I’m sure there may well be some people annoyed.

“The physical injuries are obviously more easier to determine, but with psychological injury claims, there might be more questions but we will just have to wait and see.”

Mr Heathwood said that it may be November or December before the first payments will be made and depending on age, applicants can either apply for a monthly payment or annual lump sum.

He added that the scheme would be open for five years to apply and in the event of the person’s death, the payments can be made to their career for 10 years afterwards.

The Killough man pointed out that the payments are meant to help victims live with the injuries they received. 

“As we all age, the payments will help to keep us living independent and so we don’t all end up living in nursing homes,” he added. “It’s not about fancy holidays or anything like that, it’s about helping us live and be able to pay for things like household maintenance which we can’t do for ourselves.”

Announcing the opening of the scheme, Mr Justice McAlinden said: “I recognise that the application process can seem both complicated and daunting. The Victims’ Payments Board does not want that be an impediment to any one making an application to the scheme and so we have ensured that free advice and support is available to those who need it.”

South Down MLA Colin McGrath described the opening of the scheme as “long-overdue” but hit out at the government for refusing to pay its “fair share” of the estimated £1bn costs.  

“I’m also concerned that scandal-hit company Capita will be administering this scheme for the Department of Justice and carrying out assessments of victims,” he continued.

“This company has repeatedly proven itself unfit for such tasks and there can be no repeat of the humiliating and degrading experiences countless Personal Independence Payment claimants have been subjected to.  

“This scheme should have opened years ago, but political infighting and a refusal to take responsibility has seen it beset by delays. As a result many victims who campaigned long and hard to see this scheme become a reality have now passed on. I can only hope it will comfort their families that their work has not been in vain.”

Applications can be made to the scheme on-line or by submitting a paper copy.  Further detail is available on the Victims’ Payment Board website: