Belfast Telegraph

Settlement plans for institutional abuse victims 'not enough'

Jon McCourt of Survivors North West
Jon McCourt of Survivors North West
Secretary of State Karen Bradley
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

A group representing victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse say plans to secure compensation don't go far enough.

Jon McCourt, chairperson of Survivors North West, made the comments as a legal challenge is currently seeking to compel Secretary of State Karen Bradley to pass new laws to compensate victims immediately.

The responses of a consultation on legislation drafted by the Northern Ireland Executive Office are currently being considered.

"Whether or not this draft legislation gets passed, in it's current form it doesn't meet the needs of victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse," said Mr McCourt.

Among the issues, he said, was the compensation levels proposed didn't recognise the length of time victims were forced to stay in the "hostile" environment of certain institutions.

He added that his own sister Annette McCourt, who spent 14 years in the care of the sisters of Nazareth, died in 2012 without receiving any compensation.

Last week the High Court was told an ongoing failure to compensate elderly survivors of historical institutional abuse as like a "dystopian nightmare".

The Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry published a report in 2017 recommending those who suffered neglect and abuse in children's homes run by religious orders and the state from 1922-1995 receive compensation ranging from £7,500 to £100,000.

In the absence of a Stormont Executive, the legal challenge is aimed at making the Secretary of State and Executive Office take immediate steps on the payouts. Mr McCourt said any legislation would need to reflect the concerns of survivors.

"I understand there were nearly 600 submissions as a result of that consultation," he said.

"My feeling is that most would reflect the draft legislation does meet the needs of victims and survivors.

"If someone has been in a 'hostile' environment, where they witnessed or were impacted by abuse, would be entitled to an award of £7,500.

"The difficulty is this is the set award for anyone in that environment. If you were in there for six weeks that's what you get. A lot of our people were there for 15 or 16 years, it was something that was a daily occurrence and traumatising."

He has called for a minimum award of £10,000 and an additional £3,000 for each additional year spent in an institution.

A UK Government spokesperson said it was "vital" that victims and survivors were properly compensated and the upcoming report was "a significant step forward".

"An interim advocate will also be appointed to provide support and assistance to victims and survivors until a statutory commissioner can be appointed," they said.

If no Executive is in place by the time the report on the consultation is completed, they said the UK Government would consider its next steps.

It's expected the report, which has considered 562 consultation responses, will be completed by the end of this month.

In the continued absence of the devolved institutions, the head of the Civil Service David Sterling will seek approval from the Secretary of State to progress the legislation through Westminster.

Belfast Telegraph


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