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Northern Ireland: consultation calls for improved compensation for child abuse victims

Survivors demand meeting with Secretary of State, urge legislation before summer

562 responses to abuse law consultation received by Executive Office 

82% of respondents recommend higher redress payments

69% think compensation should reflect number of childhood years spent in abusive institutions

76% disagreed with proposal that only judges could serve on redress board

Most responses to a government consultation (summary of responses published today) on draft legislation to establish a redress scheme for victims of institutional child abuse have called for more generous levels of compensation and for payments to reflect the number of years which children spent in institutions where abuse was rife.

The original proposals had recommended a standard payment of just £7,500, irrespective of how long a child had spent in one of the residential institutions where the Historic Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIAI) had found widespread and systemic abuse.

Abuse victims are now calling for an urgent meeting with Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley, and are urging her to introduce legislation at Westminster before the summer to set up the redress scheme, which has been delayed for more than two years following the January 2017 collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive.

Jon McCourt, chairperson of the Survivors North West group, who suffered abuse while at St Joseph’s Children’s Home in Derry / Londonderry, said:

“The government has received 562 consultation responses, many from abuse survivors, the vast majority of which are urging significant improvements to the initial proposals for the redress scheme. It is now up to Karen Bradley to listen to victims and ensure justice, which has been too-long delayed, is now delivered.”

Fellow survivor and chairperson of victims’ group, Rosetta Trust, Gerry McCann, said:

“We are seeking an urgent meeting with the Secretary of State to urge no further delay in bringing forward legislation at Westminster.

“Too many survivors have had to wait too long already for this scandal to be brought to an end. We want Karen Bradley to introduce legislation at Westminster before the summer to ensure a fair deal for victims who have suffered so much already.”

The HIAI studied allegations of abuse in 22 homes and other residential institutions between 1922 and 1995. These were run by the state, local authorities, the Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland and the children’s charity Barnardo’s. The largest number of complaints related to four Catholic-run homes.

Almost two years on from the publication of the report of the four-year Inquiry, government has so far failed to deliver a promised apology and financial redress.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland programme director of Amnesty International, which has supported abuse survivors, said:

“No redress scheme can compensate properly for the suffering which thousands of children experienced in residential homes across Northern Ireland.

“But compensation is an important component of justice which the Government has an obligation to deliver. Survivors have spoken loud and clear through this consultation.

“It is now up to Karen Bradley to both listen and act. Given the delays which victims have already been forced to ensure, the Secretary of State should move swiftly to bring this cruel saga to a conclusion.”

The publication of the summary of responses follows a 16-week government consultation on draft legislation to establish a compensation scheme for victims. This came two years after the publication of the report by the Historic Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIAI), which found widespread and systemic abuse in children’s homes across Northern Ireland.

Hundreds of victims and survivors of institutional child abuse were facilitated in responding to the consultation by support groups Survivors North West and Rosetta Trust working alongside Amnesty International and Ulster University.

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