Child abuse victims set out compensation proposals at Stormont

By agency reporter
October 18, 2016

Victims of child abuse have set out detailed proposals and costings for a redress scheme which they want the Northern Ireland Executive to set up following the end of the Historic Institutional Abuse Inquiry.

The scheme, which could provide compensation for thousands of children who suffered abuse in residential institutions between 1922-1995, would cost at least £20 million. However, if the proposed scheme is implemented, it would actually save the public purse at least £10 million compared to the costs of compensation via the courts, argue abuse survivors.

The costs of the proposed redress scheme are detailed in a report (Cost Analysis of Proposed Redress Scheme for Historic Residential Abuses) commissioned from Quarter Chartered Accountants by the Panel of Experts on Redress, an independent initiative made up of survivor groups, individual survivors, academics, lawyers, human rights organisations, practitioners and national and international experts. It is proposed that survivors of abuse should receive a common experience payment of at least £10,000, calculated on the amount of time spent in an institution and an individual assessment for any mental, physical and sexual abuse suffered. The model compensation scheme is based on wide consultation with survivors and analysis of redress schemes in other jurisdictions.

Based on a figure of 524 eligible victims – the number of survivors who made applications to the Historic Institutional Abuse Inquiry – and the likely level of compensation awards, the accountants have calculated that the scheme would cost just over £20 million. Litigation by the same number of victims through the civil claims in the courts would cost £10 million more, says Amnesty International. and a much higher proportion of the overall costs would be eaten up in legal fees, compared to the proposed scheme. Victims argue that a government-run compensation scheme would not only be more cost-effective, but would be much less traumatic for victims, who have already had to recount their experiences of abuse to the Inquiry.

If the proposed scheme involves a much higher number of victims, then the costs – but also the relative costs savings to the government – could be significantly higher. It is unclear how many victims will be eligible for compensation until Sir Anthony Hart completes the Inquiry report in January 2017. In November 2015 Sir Anthony Hart, chair of the Historic Institutional Abuse Inquiry, announced that he would recommend a financial compensation scheme for victims and that the design of such a scheme should take account of the views of abuse survivors.

Victims' campaigners want The Executive Office to consult with abuse survivors about the establishment of a compensation scheme. They want Ministers to set up a negotiation process to agree the details of the scheme and the financial contribution to be made by religious orders and other organisations which ran many of the children's homes where abuse took place.

Margaret McGuckin of Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse (SAVIA) said: "We are now only three months away from the delivery of Sir Anthony Hart's report to the Executive. Today victims have come together to set out clearly what we want from the government by way of financial redress for what we suffered as children. It is up now up to Ministers to deliver.

"Redress is a practical way for government and others to say sorry for how badly they let us down as children. We suffered then and have suffered the consequences through our lives ever since –psychological damage and lost opportunities. We shouldn't have to suffer on into our old age as well."

Jon McCourt of Survivors North West, said: "The Executive Office must listen closely to what victims and survivors are saying today. Working collectively with the Panel of Experts we have put a lot of work into developing these proposals and Ministers must take them seriously. Government must now initiate a process to secure and ring fence the resources and initiate discussions with the relevant churches and other institutions, to adequately meet the needs of victims and survivors in the wake of the Historic Institutional Abuse Inquiry.

"Victims and survivors are a very vulnerable group – some of them are very elderly and have health problems. The Executive Office should move with urgency to consult with victims and to then set up the Redress Scheme. We have waited for justice for long enough." (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/23457)

Margaret McGuckin and Jon McCourt will be among the representatives of the Panel of Experts on Redress, an independent initiative made up of survivor groups, individual survivors, academics, lawyers, human rights organisations, practitioners and national and international experts, who present the report today at 12pm in the Long Gallery of Parliament Buildings, Stormont. Other speakers will include Ciaran McCavana of Quarter Chartered Accountants, Professor Patricia Lundy of Ulster University and Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International.

The Panel has already produced two reports setting out a model compensation scheme for abuse victims, based on wide consultation with survivors and analysis of redress schemes in other jurisdictions.

The Historic Institutional Abuse Inquiry, chaired by Sir Anthony Hart, is scheduled to report to the Executive in January, 2017. The Inquiry on 4 November 2015, after 157 days of public hearings and 392 witnesses, stated: "... what we can now say is that from the evidence we have heard so far we will recommend that there should be a scheme to award financial compensation to those children who suffered abuse in children's homes and other institutions in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995."

* Amnesty International https://www.amnesty.org.uk/

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