Belfast Telegraph

Call for rise in payments to institutional abuse victims

Inquiry leader: Sir Anthony Hart
Inquiry leader: Sir Anthony Hart
Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

Calls have been made for an increase to payments offered to survivors of historical institutional abuse.

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 vast 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.

More than one-third of them came from victims and survivors of abuse.

Some 82% of respondents recommended higher redress payments and 69% of those think compensation should reflect the number of childhood years spent in abusive institutions.

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."

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."

The scheme has been delayed for more than two years following the Executive's collapse with successive secretaries of state resisting calls to step in, saying it was a matter for the Executive.

Abuse survivor Gerry McCann, who is chairman of victims group Rosetta Trust, said they 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 the Secretary of State 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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