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Monday, 19 November 2018

Proposed compensation for institutional abuse survivors slammed as 'dirisory'

Written by Rebecca Black

Survivors of abuse at children's homes across Northern Ireland have criticised government proposals on compensation as "derisory".

Draft legislation to establish a compensation scheme for victims will come on Monday almost two years after the publication of the report by the Historic Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIAI).

The inquiry led by Sir Anthony Hart found widespread and systemic abuse in children's homes across Northern Ireland.

It recommended a tax-free lump sum payment should be made to all survivors.

Abuse survivors said Northern Ireland's Executive Office "simply cut and pasted" proposals from the report by the inquiry.

However a spokesman for the Executive Office said with the ongoing suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly and absence of the Executive to provide direction, it prepared legislation based on the Hart Report recommendations.

Jon McCourt (pictured), chairman of the Survivors North West group, who suffered abuse while at St Joseph's Children's Home in Londonderry, said he wanted a fair deal for all victims.

"Abuse survivors have already told government that the flat £7,500 common experience payment is, frankly, derisory," he said.

"Victims think that payments should start at £10,000 and be graduated according to the number of years spent in a residential institution.

"This would acknowledge that the longer a child was in an institution acknowledged by the Inquiry as 'harsh and brutal', the greater harm the child would have suffered.

"All we want is a fair deal and this isn't it."

Fellow survivor and chairperson of victims' group, Rosetta Trust, Gerry McCann, added: "We will be encouraging abuse survivors from across Northern Ireland to respond to this consultation to tell government that victims have a right to proper redress, not to have insult added to injury with this derisory compensation scheme."

The HIAI studied allegations of abuse in 22 homes and other residential institutions between 1922 and 1995.

These were facilities 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.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland director of Amnesty International, which is supporting victims, said they deserve better.

"Victims of institutional child abuse have had to suffer the consequences for their whole lives," he said.

"Now they are being asked to accept a redress scheme that simply does not meet the standards of natural justice.

"They have a right to better and we are determined that they will get justice."

A spokesperson for The Executive Office said: "The Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry under Sir Anthony Hart was established by the Executive and engaged extensively with the sector, including those who ran the institutions and those who were residents. The Inquiry heard testimony from over 500 victims of abuse which informed the recommendations in its report.

"In the absence of an Executive to provide direction, the Executive Office has taken this forward by preparing draft legislation, based on the Hart Report recommendations, for consultation and subsequent decision by Ministers.

"On Monday The Executive Office will launch a full 12-week consultation to enable as wide a range as possible of people to make their views known. We welcome and encourage all victims and survivors to respond with their views."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Paul Faith / PA Wire.