Compensation culture spreads to Northern Ireland

Industry news roundup: week ended 29 Sept 2014:

The so-called “compensation culture” has spread to Northern Ireland with the revelation that PSNI has paid out more than £50 million in just three short years.

A total of £51.8 million has been shelled out to police officers from 2011-12 to 2013-14, new research shows, for a large swathe of work accident claims including broken bones and hearing loss. Other injury claims made include cases related to damage to property, unfair dismissal and discrimination. Still, the lion’s share of these payouts were for personal injury compensation by a wide, wide margin; £49.5 million to be exact.

Does that sound excessive to you? You’re obviously not the only one. Dolores Kelly, SDLP Policing Board member, reported being deeply disturbed by the news of the explosion of payouts over the past few years. It was Kelly who raised the spectre of compensation culture, pointing out that there’s obviously something amiss here.

Now I’m not necessarily one to take the side of the police but I do have to say it might not be entirely their fault. The last few years have seen more than a bit of civil unrest in the region, and there have been some serious rows during parades and things of that nature. Not only that but being a copper isn’t exactly a low-risk job – you’re possibly putting your life on the line every day, even if you’re riding a desk – so it’s not entirely beyond human comprehension that PSNI had such a serious glut of injury compensation cases lately.

On the other hand, though, £51 million is a shedload of cash. Where is all this money coming from if not from taxpayer pockets? And furthermore isn’t PSNI facing serious budget cuts already? What’s going to happen once funding for the police gets slashed? I don’t think anyone here has the bollocks to think that conditions for cops will become better and that injuries will decrease. No, I’m predicting that things will steadily get worse in the region. I don’t think it will get so far as to result in complete societal collapse or something like that, but I do think that there’s gong to have to be some hard questions asked in Westminster about funding and how to handle this ‘compensation culture’ problem in Northern Ireland.

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