Northern Ireland

One-month extension for historical abuse consultation

Image caption David Sterling has said it is "vital" victims have a chance to respond.

The public consultation for those impacted by historical institutional abuse has been extended by a month.

The Executive Office announced on Wednesday those wishing to have their say will now be able to do so up until 10 March.

Consultation on the issue had been set to close on 10 February.

Head of NI's Civil Service David Sterling said it was "vital" that victims have "every opportunity to respond".

"At the outset of this process I was very clear that the Executive Office would respond flexibly and positively to any legitimate request for an extension," he added.

In November 2018, three pieces of proposed legislation aimed at dealing with outstanding issues around historical institutional abuse were published by the Executive Office.

At the time, David Sterling told BBC News NI Secretary of State Karen Bradley had a "moral responsibility" to take action on the issue from Westminster if Stormont had not been restored by the end of the consultation process.

The Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry was formally set up in May 2012 and was chaired by retired judge Sir Anthony Hart.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry was set up to examine allegations of child abuse in children's homes and other institutions

Recommendations included in the subsequent report were for legislation to deal with compensation and redress for victims.

The proposed legislation would:

  • Create a new Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse and set up a redress board, consisting of judicial figures
  • Set out the workings of a financial compensations scheme
  • For someone to qualify for compensation, they would have to demonstrate on the balance of probabilities to the redress board that they have suffered or witnessed abuse
  • The next of kin of someone entitled to compensation who has died would also be entitled to 75% of the amount which would otherwise have been awarded

In a letter to Karen Bradley earlier this week, UUP leader Robin Swann called for an interim payment to be made to victims.

"I make a plea to you and the UK Government to move on this issue. You have set a precedent by passing budgets for Northern Ireland and making public appointments," he said.

"You would be hard pressed to find a critical voice on providing some level of relief to HIA survivors in this instance."

Sir Anthony Hart's recommendations

  • Compensation to survivors of abuse, including in homes/institutions not covered by HIA inquiry, and relatives of deceased
  • Permanent memorial erected at Stormont
  • Public apology to survivors
  • Establishment of a commissioner for survivors of institutional abuse
  • Specialist care and assistance tailored to needs of victims

Official estimates are that the average compensation amount paid to survivors could end up being around £18,500 each - an estimate based on a similar scheme in the Republic.

Once the consultation process has concluded proposed legislation requires ministerial sign off.

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