Belfast Telegraph

Call for increase to 'derisory' compensation planned for historical abuse victims

The Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry concluded there should be compensation ranging from £7,500 to £100,000.
The Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry concluded there should be compensation ranging from £7,500 to £100,000.

There have been calls for an increase to the standard payment offered to survivors of historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland.

In January 2017 an inquiry led by Sir Anthony Hart found widespread and systemic abuse in children’s homes across Northern Ireland.

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

Sir Anthony recommended a tax-free lump sum payment for all survivors ranging from £7,500 to £100,000. 

However, the majority of respondents to an Executive Office consultation on the findings disagreed that the "standard" compensation amount should begin at £7,500, with the majority saying £10,000 would be a more appropriate amount.

The Executive Office launched the consultation in November 2018 and received 562 responses. Over a third of the responses came from victims and survivors.

One respondent described the £7,500 standard payment as "derisory".

"No amount of compensation can undo or repair the damage inflicted," they wrote.

"Nevertheless there ought to be a tangible figure that in some way reflects the loss of a childhood. £10,000 is not an awful lot but at least it's a start. Nothing less."

Many respondents felt that compensation should be paid for each year a person spent in an institution.

Karen Bradley
Karen Bradley

One of the key issues raised by respondents was a proposal that victims would not be entitled to apply for compensation if they had previously been compensated for the same matter.

The majority proposed that those who had already received compensation should be allowed to have it reviewed and receive any difference awarded.

Respondents also said that they believed that the spouses and children of abuse victims should receive 100% of the compensation they would have been awarded if the victim were alive, rather than the proposed 75%.

Concerns were also expressed over the provision that claims could only be made in respect of people who died on or after September 29 2011.

"How dare the HIA suggest to ignore those survivors who if were still alive would receive the full amount of their entitlement," one respondent wrote.

"Deceased survivors must be treated as equals. A full 100% must be awarded to spouses or children of the deceased."

Some respondents said that they felt oral evidence as part of compensation applications should be avoided as it had the potential to retraumatize abuse victims.

Others expressed concern that some applicants would find it difficult to describe their experience in writing.

The recommendations from the Hart inquiry have been delayed by the absence of devolved government with successive secretaries of state resisting calls to step in saying it was a matter for the Executive.

Chairperson of victim's group Rosetta Trust and survivor of abuse Gerry McCann said the group were seeking an urgent meeting with Secretary of State Karen Bradley.

“Too many survivors have had to wait too long already for this scandal to be brought to an end," he said.

"We want Karen Bradley to introduce legislation at Westminster before the summer to ensure a fair deal for victims who have suffered so much already.”

Last week Secretary of State Karen Bradley said she would try to release compensation to survivors of historical institutional abuse "as soon as possible".

She must now consider the findings of the consultation and decide if any changes should be made to the legislation before it is brought to Parliament. 

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