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HIA report's proposals must be implemented

The publication of the final report of the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry marks the conclusion of the daunting task faced by Sir Anthony Hart and his panel, who had to examine abuse at children's residential institutions over 73 years since the foundation of Northern Ireland.

The inquiry was ordered by a previous Stormont Executive, and it is of concern that Sir Anthony's recommendations cannot be fully realised until political stability is restored and our devolved institutions are fully-functioning.

It is vital that those who will be elected to the Assembly on March 2 commit themselves to urgent consideration of these matters.

Many of the testimonies heard during dozens of public hearings at the inquiry were harrowing. The suffering of victims demands three main responses:

l It is especially important those who suffered in care receive the recognition and ongoing support needed. The inquiry's call for a new Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse and the panel's recommendations for redress are to be welcomed.

l The lessons of the past must inform social care policy in the present, and the light shone on a hidden problem by the inquiry must also illuminate our future approach to children who rely on residential care.

l Institutions must now be held to account for the prolonged and systematic failings against the children in their care.

It is a guiding principle of the NSPCC that "every childhood is worth fighting for". That extends to those who are now adults, but who suffered as children.

The HIA inquiry has highlighted once again the vital importance of helping children to speak out and to take action on abuse.

The inquiry's report and recommendations are a solid platform on which positive and proactive improvements can be made to the provision of residential care of children, informed by the clear injustices of the past which the panel exposed. It is vital that and momentum is not lost and this work begins as soon as politics allows.

The NSPCC in Northern Ireland will continue to campaign for children - and adults who suffered as children - especially if no one is listening to them.

NEIL ANDERSON

Head of NSPCC Northern Ireland

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