Willie Frazer critically ill; family ‘devastated’ by VSS

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The family of Willie Frazer say they have been “devastated” that the Victims and Survivors Service (VSS) announced it had withdrawn his funding while he lies critically ill in hospital - which they claim was contrary to a ‘gentleman’s agreement’.

In a statement to the News Letter, a spokesman for the family of the prominent victims campaigner said that VSS withdrew funding from his Markethill based victims group FRPU at the end of April.

Willie Frazer at the 25th Shankill Bomb memorial service at West Kirk Presbyterian Church on the Shankill Road in 2018. Photo: Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Willie Frazer at the 25th Shankill Bomb memorial service at West Kirk Presbyterian Church on the Shankill Road in 2018. Photo: Jonathan Porter/PressEye

According to the spokesman, VSS provided a list of failures of management by FRPU but agreed to “a gentleman’s agreement” not to go public with the matter until Mr Frazer had been given a chance to respond.

However, his family say Mr Frazer was hospitalised only days later and has been in hospital ever since, with the exception of only a few days.

“Willie has been critically ill three times in the past five weeks and has not had a chance to respond,” the spokesman said.

He noted that VSS confirmed it had withdrawn funding in the media on Wednesday.

The family are devastated that VSS, with such a victim seriously ill in hospital, would put this statement out, contrary to such an agreement and without any warning to the family.

Frazer family spokesman

“They see it as a promise broken and are taking it as a very personal blow.

UPDATE: Willie is in God’s hands, says wife

“Very few families have had six members murdered during the Troubles - his father, two uncles, two cousins and a brother-in-law as well as other close friends.

“The family are devastated that VSS, with such a victim seriously ill in hospital, would put this statement out, contrary to such an agreement and without any warning to the family.”

He said VSS had been concerned with some postings by Mr Frazer to social media regarding legacy matters and the statutory definition of a victim.

As a result, he claimed, VSS sent an auditor to carry out a full survey of FRPU and found a list of alleged failings.

However VSS firmly rejected any suggestion that the survey was prompted by Mr Frazer’s social media posts.

A spokeswoman for the VSS said it was “sorry to hear of the ill health of William Frazer”.

She added: “The VSS provides funding to community and voluntary organisations across the region to deliver support and services in a wide range of areas including Health and Wellbeing and Advocacy Support.

“The VSS regularly monitors and evaluates these services to ensure that they are being delivered in a way that makes a positive difference to the lives of victims and survivors impacted by the Conflict/Troubles.

“VSS recently initiated a review of the corporate governance of Families Research and Policy Unit (FRPU) that identified serious issues with regards to safeguarding, duty of care, committee governance and financial management.

“As a result of the investigation, we had no option but to withdraw funding support. The investigation was not related to any social media postings.

“We would like to reassure victims and survivors in this area that they will continue to have access to the support and services that they need.

“We are working to ensure that the advocacy support in that area continues and expect to have an alternative provider in the coming weeks. In the meantime if anyone has any concerns, is seeking support or requires access to services, our Client Services Team will be happy to help on 02890 279 100.”

Mr Frazer’s previous victims group, FAIR, was also subjected to thorough investigations after allegations of irregularities, but UUP Peer Lord Empey previously noted that the organisation was eventually given the all clear.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, the News Letter had discovered that issues had been raised when the First Minister’s office emailed the a key funder, the Community Relations Council, with concerns about a statement on FAIR’s website.

UPDATE: Willie is in God’s hands, says wife