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Delays concern as historical abuse redress scheme launched

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Process: Jon McCourt

Process: Jon McCourt

Process: Jon McCourt

A SURVIVOR of historical institutional abuse has said measures must be put in place to allow applications to a compensation scheme launched today to proceed without delay.

A redress board set up by the Executive will assess applications from victims through a range of panels.

However, coronavirus control measures mean that members of the panels cannot hold face to face meetings.

The panels will also not be able to access victims' files that have not been digitalised to date.

Jon McCourt, chairman of the North West Victims' Group, warned these obstacles must not be allowed to hinder the scheme getting under way.

He said: "It will be a real comfort to our members to know this redress board has been launched but my fear is further delays to compensation being paid out.

"I recognise the fact that the members of the panels will be working remotely and that the Public Record Office, where files are stored, is currently closed, but even with these difficulties applications should be processed where possible.

"Some files are still only available on hard copy but others have been digitalised and should be available to the panels.

"There is nothing in this that can't be overcome.

"What we need more than ever is a streamlined process that ensures that every victim and survivor of historical institutional abuse receives first and foremost information from the redress board about how to access the application form as soon as possible.

"This application process should be kept as straightforward as possible because by the very nature of the abuse our members suffered, their literacy level is low which affects their ability to complete a complicated application form."

Last November legislation went through the House of Commons recognising the right of abuse victims to compensation.

Within days the head of the Civil Service, David Sterling, told victims of his intention to set up the redress board.

Mr McCourt added: "I am delighted to see the scheme launched as scheduled which means the panels should receive the first application around the middle of April and within weeks the first redress payments would be processed.

"As regards the money being available, David Sterling told me if a cheque is written that cheque will be honoured."

Belfast Telegraph