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Child abuse report urges Executive to set up £30m compensation scheme

By Joanne Fleming

Published 17/10/2016

Urgent action: Margaret McGuckin
Urgent action: Margaret McGuckin

Victims of historical child abuse in Northern Ireland are to press for a compensation scheme of up to £30m at Stormont today.

The scheme could provide redress for hundreds of children who suffered abuse in residential institutions between 1922 and 1995, such as the Kincora Boys' Home in Belfast and victims of the notorious paedophile priest Brendan Smyth.

While the scheme would cost at least £20m, the victims argue it will save the public purse over £10m compared to the costs of compensation via the courts.

The Historic Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry is currently examining allegations of child abuse in homes and other institutions over the 73-year period.

The HIA began its public evidence sessions at the former Banbridge Court House in 2014 and is due to report to the Executive in January 2017. The compensation is based on a figure of 524 eligible victims who have made applications to the HIA.

The costs are detailed in a report commissioned from Quarter Chartered Accountants by the Panel of Experts on Redress, an independent initiative made up of survivors, academics, lawyers, human rights organisations and international experts.

It proposes survivors of abuse should receive a basic payment of at least £10,000, calculated on the amount of time spent in an institution and an individual assessment on abuse suffered.

As well as being more cost-effective, the panel believes it would be much less traumatic for victims, who have already had to recount their experiences to the inquiry.

It is unclear how many victims will be eligible for compensation until Sir Anthony Hart, chair of the inquiry, completes his report. In November 2015, Sir Anthony announced that he would recommend a financial compensation scheme for victims and that the design of such a scheme should take account of the views of abuse survivors.

The victims' campaigners now want ministers to set up a negotiation process to agree the details of the scheme and the financial contribution to be made by religious orders and other organisations which ran many of the children's homes where abuse took place.

Margaret McGuckin of Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse said it was time for politicians to take urgent action.

"We are now only three months away from the delivery of Sir Anthony Hart's report to the Executive," she said.

"Today victims have come together to set out clearly what we want from the government by way of financial redress for what we suffered as children. It is now up to ministers to deliver.

"Redress is a practical way for government and others to say sorry for how badly they let us down as children. We suffered then and have suffered the consequences through our lives ever since - psychological damage and lost opportunities. We shouldn't have to suffer on into our old age as well."

Jon McCourt, of Survivors North West, said: "The Executive Office must listen closely to what victims and survivors are saying today. Government must initiate a process to secure and ring fence the resources and initiate discussions with the relevant churches and other institutions, to adequately meet the needs of victims and survivors in the wake of the HIA inquiry.

"The Executive should move with urgency to consult with victims and to then set up the redress scheme. We have waited for justice for long enough."

Ms McGuckin and Mr McCourt will be among Panel of Experts on Redress members presenting the report at Parliament Buildings today.

Belfast Telegraph

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