Abuse victims told no financial compensation for at least another 10 months

Margaret McGuckian from SAVIA
Margaret McGuckian from SAVIA

Victims of historical child abuse in Northern Ireland have been told they will not receive promised financial compensation for at least another 10 months because of the political crisis.

Many have been left devastated to discover that no provision was made in the 2017/18 budget to cover the scheme.

Politicians have been advised by the head of the civil service that with no working executive, it is unlikely any financial redress will be made before April 2018.

Financial payments were promised to victims more than a year ago.

Victims have warned that many have been left suicidal or facing financial ruin as the current Stormont impasse means that the findings and recommendations of a four-year inquiry into state and church abuse have still not been presented to the assembly.

The report, which was published just days before Stormont collapsed in January, promised victims state-backed compensation payments of up to £100,000.

Victims and government bodies were advised in November 2015 that the report would be recommending financial redress.

However, the failure of the region's two largest parties - the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein - to form a powersharing government has meant the inquiry's recommendations have not been implemented.

"I am shattered by this latest news. We are being treated as complete idiots and fools," said Margaret McGuckin, of the campaign group Survivors & Victims of Institutional Abuse (SAVIA).

She added: "Why didn't the politicians ensure the scheme was included in the budget before they pulled out of government? Because our politicians can't work together, we are being punished."

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw said the victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse deserve justice now.

"They have waited long enough. It is incumbent their dignified and courageous campaign is recognised and they receive the redress they deserve.

"It is important provision for a compensation scheme is included in any final talks settlement, so when the Assembly gets up and running again, justice for the victims and survivors will not be subject to any further delay."

In January the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry led by Sir Anthony Hart, outlined a series of recommendations after shocking levels of sexual, physical and emotional abuse at church and state-run institutions in the period 1922 to 1995 were revealed.

Sir Anthony said the minimum payout should be £7,500, with the maximum amount given to those who had experienced severe levels of abuse as well as being transported to Australia in a controversial migrant scheme.

He said the organisations that ran the abusing homes should make a financial contribution to the Stormont Executive-run scheme.

Neil Anderson, head of the NSPCC in Northern Ireland said it is unacceptable that victims "should have to wait for almost another year to receive the financial redress that will allow them to get the help that they need to move on with their lives".

"Sexual abuse has devastating and lifelong consequences, especially to those who have been unable to reveal their ordeal for many years.

"It is vital that the survivors of abuse in Northern Ireland's institutions receive what was promised by the HIA to show other victims that past abuse is taken seriously and prompt action taken," he added.