In November 2013 WKM Solutions, now Supporting Justice, entered a competitive bidding process to undertake work on behalf of the Commission for Victims and Survivors in Northern Ireland. The Commission, which advises the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister of the Northern Ireland Executive, was seeking a review of the services offered to victims and survivors of the conflict in Northern Ireland. Supporting Justice was successful in this bidding process and began work in December 2013. Our work involved both desk based research and a month of field work in Northern Ireland in late 2013 and early 2014.
The Commissioner for Victims and Survivors has a statutory responsibility to advise the Northern Ireland Executive on policy and delivery of services to survivors of the conflict that has had a devastating impact on many people. This includes oversight of and providing advice on the Victims and Survivors Service which is funded by the Executive. We engaged with a wide range of stakeholders during our work: The Commission, staff and the board of the Service for Victims and Survivors, Officials and advisors in the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers, representatives of groups providing a wide range of interventions and services, representatives of victims and survivors and, most importantly, individuals who have been directly impacted by the conflict, physically and psychologically.
This work was both challenging and humbling, offering an insight into the lives of many vulnerable and traumatised individuals. We provided a comprehensive report to the Victims’ Commissioner and made twenty three key recommendations to improve the services to victims. This report, and crucially, the recommendations, submitted by the Commissioner to the Northern Ireland Executive, were accepted in full.
Supporting Justice were commended by the Commissioner and individuals we met for our sensitive handling of the work and our empathy with those we met during the field work – both individuals and those representing them expressed their gratitude that they were being listened to and that their genuine concerns were being addressed.
In October 2014, Supporting Justice provided the Commission with a follow up report on progress made against our recommendations and have noted significant improvements bringing benefit to victims and survivors. We have been encouraged by seeing our report help deliver the improvements badly needed – we strongly believe that any assessment report should be a working tool to help deliver real and substantive improvement and not simply a piece of research or a tick box exercise. We are proud of our achievements in this area of our work.
Perhaps the best insight into our work is expressed in the words of one of the survivors we met in February 2014: “I just want to be treated fairly and to feel I’m being listened to – you have made me feel as though someone is listening”.