Belfast Telegraph

£300m... what it could cost to compensate ex-residents of Northern Ireland residential homes

By Michael McHugh

Compensating everybody who spent time in a residential home in Northern Ireland run by or on behalf of the state could cost £300m, a lawyer who specialises in abuse cases has suggested.

Sir Anthony Hart is drawing up his report for ministers following two-and-a-half years of Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry hearings involving abuse victims and institutions.

He has already said that there should be an award of compensation to those children who suffered abuse in children's homes and other institutions in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995.

A group of survivors is calling for a common experience payment of £10,000 per resident and an additional payment of £3,000 for each year spent in an institution.

Each person could then apply for a further "top up" award to reflect any abusive experiences suffered in the institution.

Lawyer Fintan Canavan, from law firm BLM, agreed with the cost estimates calculated by a victims' group.

He said that a total of £20m which had already been mooted was unrealistic.

"This figure would reflect compensation only being paid to those who have come forward to the HIA inquiry and does not reflect the likely situation where, as has happened in other jurisdictions and schemes, significantly more people will seek a payment from a redress scheme than have come to the inquiry," he said.

"It also does not take account of the fact that this inquiry was limited to a number of institutions and that residents of other institutions would also expect to be entitled to avail of the scheme."

Mr Canavan represented one of the residential institutions during the inquiry and has also worked with victims.

A report on what survivors wanted was published in May.

It set out a "tailor-made out-of-court redress plan" based on consultation with survivors and research and analysis of their views.

The report calculated an estimate of the cost which ranged from £20.1m to £307.3m.

A spokesman for the Executive Office said ministers remained sensitive to the views of all those who have suffered abuse and were mindful of the destructive impact it has had on many people.

He added: "The Executive Office has not engaged in consultation on this matter as it would be inappropriate to pre-empt the Sir Anthony Hart Inquiry findings.

"The inquiry will be making its recommendations, including a fully formed recommendation with regard to redress, in its report to the Executive in January 2017.

"The nature or level of any potential redress, as stipulated in the inquiry's terms of reference, is a matter the Executive will discuss and agree following receipt of the inquiry's report.

"During the course of the inquiry, ministers have met, and continue to meet, with organisations representing victims and survivors.

"Executive Office officials also continue to engage on a regular basis with all historical institutional abuse victims and survivor groups."

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