More than £500 million is to be paid out to police and prison officers injured on duty, an Audit Office report has found.
The figure emerged as the public finances watchdog warned that a compensation schemes for PSNI and NIPS staff hurt at work are “not fit for purpose”.
They say “substantial changes are needed to make police and prison service injury schemes sustainable.”
The schemes are two of the largest of their type in Northern Ireland, the Comptroller and Auditor General says.
His report added: “Both schemes have seen costs soar over the last five years, with £33.9 million spent by PSNI and £2.3 million by the Northern Ireland Prison Service in 2018-19.
“Total liabilities are estimated at £488 million for the PSNI and £53 million for the Prison Service.”
Comptroller and Auditor General, Kieran Donnelly says “changes are necessary if the schemes are to be affordable in the future”.
He added: “The current review of the Prison Service scheme should be joined by a similar, fundamental review of the PSNI scheme. Both reviews should provide clarity on the aims of the schemes and how these will be accomplished and how appropriate checks and balances can be established.
“The end to end process for the PSNI scheme needs to be simplified and streamlined with reconsideration given to the respective roles of the PSNI, the Policing Board and the Department of Justice. In the interim, the public bodies involved should take action to address the most urgent issues.”
Mr Donnelly’s report found:
• The scale of claims in Northern Ireland is significantly greater than in England. The Policing Board receives an average of 12 claims per week. The Metropolitan Police Service, with over 30,000 officers, receives around 20 applications each year. No police service in England has more than 650 IoD awards in payment, while there are more than 2,800 in Northern Ireland.
• The PSNI scheme is complex and challenging to administer. While the PSNI is responsible for the budget, the Northern Ireland Policing Board is responsible for the overall administration of the scheme and the Department of Justice is responsible for the legislative framework and for co-ordinating medical appeals.
• The payment of injury awards is not always equitable. Someone of pension age with an IoD award could earn more than another officer with a retirement pension.
• There are no time limits within which an application must be made. Backdated awards have a significant impact on the spend as they involve payment of arrears.
The Audit Office found that as of March 31, 2019 there were 2,881 injury awards in payments for former police officers and 181 for former Prison Officers.
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