Belfast Telegraph

Abuse compensation system to open in March, Northern Ireland Civil Service head confirms

Head of the NI Civil Service David Sterling
Head of the NI Civil Service David Sterling

The head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service has said the application for abuse payments for those victims and survivors of historical abuse will begin in March.

David Sterling said he also hoped to have a Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse as well as Redress Panel appointed by the end of January.

Compensation payments were recommended by a Stormont-commissioned inquiry into historic institutional abuse, chaired by retired judge Sir Anthony Hart. in 2017.

It was recommended just after the collapse of the Stormont Executive and it took until October for the Westminster Government to legislate for the move.

Those who suffered abuse in children’s homes runs by the church, state and charities were to be offered payments up to a maximum of £100,000.

Victims who attended institutions where the inquiry deemed that a certain level of abuse was widespread will receive an initial £10,000 acknowledgment payment.

David Sterling set out the timetable for the compensation of victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse on Tuesday after meeting with victims and survivors.

“I gave a commitment to victims and survivors that I would keep them updated on ongoing developments to implement the HIA legislation," he said.

“We have made significant progress over the last month in developing arrangements for redress payments and are now ready to engage with victims and survivors on the design of an application form that meets the needs of applicants and provides the information required for the Redress Board to carry out its role effectively.

“We will also be working with victims and survivors to inform what support they may need to help them through the application process.

“This work will begin after Christmas with a view to opening the application process at the end of March 2020.

“The Redress Board panels will be available to sit from the end of April, with the first approved payments to follow shortly thereafter.”

The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry studied allegations of abuse in 22 homes and other residential institutions between 1922 and 1995.

As well as the compensation, it recommended a memorial and a public apology be made.

Mr Sterling said a process to appoint a Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse (COSICA) will be launched in January.

"This is an important milestone, as the Commissioner’s Office will have a key role in supporting those wishing to apply for compensation," he said.

"January will also see the announcement of the first multi-disciplinary members of the Redress Board and the launch of a competition to recruit for additional panels."

Mr Sterling concluded: “This is a complex process and getting to this point is the result of a huge effort on the part of many parties, who are all committed to ensuring victims and survivors get the redress they deserve. We will continue to do everything possible to support the Redress Board in this regard.”

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