Northern Ireland

HIA compensation: Application process opens

Campaigners have been calling for compensation to be implemented since early 2017
Image caption Campaigners have been calling for compensation to be implemented since early 2017

The application process has opened for victims of historical and institutional abuse to claim compensation.

It follows legislation passed at Westminster in 2019 that provided for a payment scheme to be set up.

The Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry studied allegations of abuse in 22 homes and residential institutions between 1922 to 1995.

The executive office said the coronavirus crisis meant processing payments would take longer.

Anyone who resided in an institution or home between 1992 and 1995 and suffered or witnessed abuse is eligible to apply.

Advice to victims and survivors is that they should contact a solicitor from home by phone or email.

There is a five-year window in which to make applications.

Applications can also be made on behalf of someone who has died if the relative is a spouse, civil or cohabitating partner or child.

The executive said it recognised that financial redress could not take away the harm people have experienced, but that payments were an acknowledgement of their suffering.

'Torturous journey'

Margaret McGuckin, from Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse (Savia), said the group had been worried the Covid-19 pandemic would cause "even more desperation and despair amongst HIA victims who have been knocked about for a lifetime having to fight and lobby every step of the way to get justice".

"We just hope and pray that this, indeed, will bring some hope and some joy to our most vulnerable people many who have, passed away or already given up in this torturous journey to get what is right and justly theirs." she added.

Patrick Corrigan, director of Amnesty International NI, said it was a "momentous day" for survivors, and the first and deputy first minister deserved credit for sticking to the promised timetable, despite the coronavirus crisis.

"The current Covid-19 situation will present many difficulties for survivors in applying for redress," he added.

"Solicitors' offices are closed, as is the public records office, which some victims will need to provide evidence of their time in care."

The HIA Inquiry said all victims of institutional abuse should receive tax-free, lump sum payments ranging from £7,500 to £100,000 from a government-funded redress scheme.

A total of £37.5m was set aside on Tuesday by the executive to help cover the cost of compensating HIA victims.

But it is expected the final figure needed will be more than £100m and Westminster is under pressure to provide the bulk of funding.