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More staff needed to get justice for child abuse victims – Brendan McAllister

The interim advocate for those abused in institutions said he needed more staff to help survivors in a sensitive fashion.

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Brendan McAllister said more staff are needed to address the ‘grave injustice’ of historical abuse of children in residential homes in Northern Ireland (NI Assembly/PA)

Brendan McAllister said more staff are needed to address the ‘grave injustice’ of historical abuse of children in residential homes in Northern Ireland (NI Assembly/PA)

Brendan McAllister said more staff are needed to address the ‘grave injustice’ of historical abuse of children in residential homes in Northern Ireland (NI Assembly/PA)

More staff are needed to address the “grave injustice” of historical abuse of children in residential homes in Northern Ireland, interim advocate Brendan McAllister said.

He acknowledged the long journey that victims and survivors have had over many decades and said he was in urgent need of extra people to conduct “emotionally laden” work.

Mr McAllister said he appreciated the support received from all the political parties in Northern Ireland who agreed that compensation payments should be pushed through Westminster quickly.

He added: “The historical institutional abuse of children is a grave injustice that stretches across generations.

We need to move with haste to get people in place quickly but that has not proved possibleBrendan McAllister

“Many of its victims have died; those who have fought the HIA campaign carry their childhood friends, often their brothers and sisters, in their hearts.

“And of course, the people who have done most to bring justice and truth to bear from this situation are victims themselves.”

He said he needed more case workers and researchers to deal with “emotionally laden” and sensitive work.

“We need to move with haste to get people in place quickly but that has not proved possible.”

He said further measures to help survivors will require significant ministerial attention in the time ahead.

“I refer specifically to sensitive matters such as acknowledgment, apology and memorialisation.”

Memorialisation could include a structure or a literary project.

The advocate added: “In that regard, I intend to convene a series of seminars between Easter and the summer, to assist victims and survivors and relevant others to begin to form more coherence and consensus about how these matters may be addressed.”

He said he would expect to submit advice to ministers and to the Executive Office scrutiny committee at Stormont in due course.

Mr McAllister commissioned an independent needs assessment which informed him that the main concerns of abuse victims included welfare advice, mental and physical health, social support, information retrieval and assistance with the redress process.

A proposal for a bespoke unit is under consideration between himself, the Executive Office and a potential service provider.

Mr McAllister added: “The proposal is to establish a one-stop-shop, with an outreach capacity across Northern Ireland, which will work with HIA clients to design individualised care packages and signpost them to the most appropriate help.

“I am hopeful that this facility can open its doors some time this summer. In the meantime, it is sometimes a struggle to meet more immediate needs, especially around the need for emotional support.”

PA