Once the group first met, they soon realised that they had all faced many of the same problems and challenges over the years. They found that many of them had been degraded and badly let down by the adversarial Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme which was supposed to look after their long-term needs into the future.
They found that due to their injuries and resulting chronic conditions many of them were unable to return to meaningful and rewarding employment and therefore found themselves dependent on the benefits system. This situation was unacceptable as many of them, now reaching old age, feared for the future.
This spurred the injured Group into action. They decided to push those in power to help them as they faced the future. They invited the politicians, the Victim’s Commissioners and those who were involved in ‘dealing with the past’ into WAVE to hear their concerns. From these discussions the Injured Group embarked on the Campaign for Recognition in the shape of a public petition. This petition which gathered 10,000 signatures was handed over to political representatives at Stormont, the Dail and 10 Downing Street in May 2012.
It was a call for the recognition of the Injured. It was a call to meet their needs. Such needs were further highlighted by the comprehensive research report carried out by Professor Marie Breen Smyth (2012) – “The needs of individuals and their families injured as a result of the Troubles in Northern Ireland”.
Alongside a range of recommendations which included a new Victims’ Service; support for carers; heating allowances for chronic pain; welfare mitigations for injured victims and survivors; and a dedicated benefits advice centre, the report recommended that the government provides a special pension.
This led the Group to the halls of the Stormont Assembly in 2013. They asked the politicians to bring forth a pension scheme with cross party consensus. In the main, all parties agreed that the pension was something that could be done and should be done. Yet, due to political disagreement on who would be eligible for a pension, the Assembly failed to get it over the line before its collapse in January 2017.
Whilst this was calamitous for the people of Northern Ireland, it did present a window of opportunity for the pension campaign, as the Westminster Government might be able to legislate for a pension where the Stormont Executive could not or would not.
But even before the collapse of Stormont the Injured Group had taken the view that the Pension should be treated as a legacy issue rather than a purely devolved one. The Government at Westminster has an over arching responsibility for legacy.
The campaign moved to Westminster in the Spring of 2018 when the first WAVE Injured delegation lobbied Members of Parliament in the Houses of Commons.
The Injured Group made a return visit to Westminster with the ‘Injured On That day’ photographic exhibition in March 2019. This visit included an important meeting with Lord Duncan, the Conservative minister taking the lead on the implementation of the pension.
The vehicle for securing the pension came in the form of an amendment to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill.
The Government accepted an amendment from former Secretary of State Peter Hain, now Lord Hain, which committed the Government to legislate for a pension for those severely injured and that crucially the fundamental principle under pining the pension was that it would go only to those who were injured ‘through no fault of their own’.
The Bill was given Royal Assent on 24 July 2019.
The WAVE Injured Group would like acknowledge the work of Stuart Magee and Peter Hain in getting the pension over the line. Stuart is a Barrister from Belfast and had previously worked for WAVE. It was Stuart’s paper on a pension that became of spine of the pension debate and opened the door for it to be taken seriously.
Lord Hain, has lobbied for a pension for the severely disabled in the House of Lords for a couple of years. It was his intervention that the pension only be awarded to those who were ‘injured through no fault’, that broke the logjam and ensured that it was given Royal Accent.