Belfast Telegraph

Parliament to debate upfront payment for historic abuse victims

The legislation will be considered in the House of Lords.

The inquiry was led by Sir Anthony Hart (Paul Faith/PA)
The inquiry was led by Sir Anthony Hart (Paul Faith/PA)

By David Young, PA

A provision to pay historic abuse victims an upfront £10,000 ahead of fuller compensation assessments is among proposals to be debated at Parliament on Monday.

The acknowledgement payment for victims is contained in legislation that will be considered by Lords.

The Historical Institutional Abuse (Northern Ireland) Bill has been brought forward by the Government amid the ongoing powersharing impasse at Stormont.

Redress recommended by a Stormont-commissioned inquiry into historic institutional abuse in the region, chaired by the late Sir Anthony Hart, have been on ice for over two-and-a-half years due to the collapse of the devolved institutions.

The advance payment will be available to those who attended institutions where the inquiry deemed that a certain level of abuse was widespread.

This included excessive work, unacceptable living conditions or emotionally abusive behaviour.

Many victims will ultimately be entitled to larger pay-outs, up to a maximum £100,000 depending on the level of abuse suffered.

Each individual claim will be assessed by members of a redress board.

The bill started its legislative journey in the House of Lord earlier in the month.

The second reading, which is the first opportunity for Lords to debate the proposed law, will be held later on Monday.

Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith said abuse victims will be compensated as rapidly as possible when new legislation passes through Parliament.

Mr Smith said he has tasked officials at the Northern Ireland Office to work to ensure the redress scheme is ready to go once the law gets Royal assent.

However, uncertainty still hangs over the fate of the bill, given the precarious position of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government and the potential of an imminent general election.

Mr Smith said: “I am aware that time is of the essence and, in order to speed up delivery of redress mechanisms, I have tasked officials from the Northern Ireland Office to work at pace with The Executive Office and begin preparations for the scheme, once it becomes law.

“We will also provide whatever support is needed to assist the Northern Ireland Civil Service to ensure victims are paid as rapidly as possible.

“Today’s Second Reading in the House of Lords marks another major milestone on an issue that is so important to so many people in Northern Ireland.

“I want to see this become law as quickly as possible and in the absence of a functioning Stormont Executive, I will be working with MPs across all parties to effect this as quickly as possible from Westminster.”

PA

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