A review of the redress process for survivors of historic institutional abuse in Northern Ireland has been announced.
Compensation has been paid to those abused in residential homes run by religious orders and the state since the fund was opened last year.
The payments were a key recommendation from the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, which examined allegations of child abuse at 22 residential institutions run by religious, charitable and state organisations across Northern Ireland over a 73-year period.
MLAs were told during a debate on Monday that the process of applying for compensation risks “retraumatising” those who have suffered abuse.
A full and broad review will now be undertaken to ensure that the needs of victims and survivors are at the heart of all aspects and stages of the processPaul Givan
First Minister Paul Givan and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill announced the review of the “client journey for HIA (historical institutional abuse) redress to improve the experiences of victims and survivors”.
Mr Givan said: “I have listened carefully to the views and experiences of victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse around engagement with the current redress process.
“Much good work has been achieved over the last 15 months, including determinations in over 1,090 cases totalling £20 million, and there is a clear imperative to consider what can be done better.
“A full and broad review will now be undertaken to ensure that the needs of victims and survivors are at the heart of all aspects and stages of the process.”
After years of their voices being suppressed or ignored, it is incumbent on us to do everything possible to make sure that never happens againMichelle O'Neill
Ms O’Neill said: “As we undertake this review, the needs of victims and survivors are foremost in our minds.
“After years of their voices being suppressed or ignored, it is incumbent on us to do everything possible to make sure that never happens again. We have listened to their experiences, and are committed to making improvements to the redress process through this review.
“However, we do not need to wait for the outcome of the review and should move ahead with any positive changes to the scheme as soon as they can be implemented; indeed, I welcome that improvements have already been made.
“We must also continue to ensure that victims and survivors, who have already endured so much, are supported in a way that meets their individual needs.”
Work has begun on the terms of reference for the review and this is expected to be completed over the summer.
This will involve the redress board, the Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Abuse and support services.
A motion calling for a review of the redress board had been brought to the Assembly by SDLP MLA Colin McGrath, who is chairman of the Executive Office committee.
He told the Assembly the redress board process, set up by Westminster when the Stormont institutions had collapsed, was “too judicial and legalistic” and risked “retraumatising” victims.
He also said there were delays in the process and that some victims had died before they received compensation.
Mr McGrath said: “The state failed these victims once; we cannot allow it to happen again.”