The report of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry in Northern Ireland launched today. A copy of the report was delivered to the Executive Office (formerly the Office of First and Deputy First Minister). The report, which is available online, consists of 10 volumes amounting to 2300 pages.
It deals with issues such as an apology; by whom should an apology be made and the nature of that apology. It also addresses a memorial or tribute to those who suffered abuse, a redress scheme, findings of failings against the State and voluntary providers of residential care homes.
The initial points of interest are the recommendation for a Redress Scheme and criticisms of the involvement of the State in the supervision and inspection of various homes.
The Inquiry has recommended redress in a number of forms and these will all need to be put into place by the newly formed Executive. In summary, the key recommendations are:
- Redress will be split into a memorial in Stormont or Stormont Estate, support packages for adult literacy counselling etc and a financial arrangement
- The primary responsibility for funding will fall to the Executive
- Voluntary homes providers will be asked to make a contribution to the financial redress fund and the services provision. It is not set out in the report but a process of negotiations, mediation and binding arbitration will be the steps to deciding this contribution which may include costs incurred to date and the provision of counselling for example.
- The redress will fall into three categories:
- £7,500 for those in a home with a harsh environment who suffered abuse or witnessed abuse
- £20,000 for those who were sent to Australia (in addition or separate from the £7,500)
- Top up for those who suffered severe abuse
- Cap on the total recoverable set at £80,000 (plus the £20,000 for those sent to Australia) but this is seen as exceptional
- A Redress panel to be created headed by judicial figures with an appeals panel provision
- Time limited application (suggests five years from creation of Redress panel)
- Written submissions to be made by applicants only – no respondent submission
- Legal aid to be provided for legal assistance – based on County Court Fixed scale fees
- Must opt for Redress or Civil case – there is no option to top up
- There is no provision for loss of earnings in redress scheme
- If a case is dismissed for credibility you cannot return to redress but you may return if the case is dismissed on limitation grounds only – an issue if cases were fought and costs incurred
Findings against the State
In a brief summary this includes findings against the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA), Welfare Associations, Social Services agencies, Local Government and any body which acts as an arm of the State in any way.
There were many findings of systemic failings against the State. Failing to properly inspect, failing to ensure regulatory compliance, failing to properly fund and require changes in institutions to reflect developing understanding of child care provision were all regular findings.
The HIA accepts that the State had an overarching responsibility to ensure adequate and proper residential care and the findings across the board were that there were regular failings in that regard. It is likely that this overarching role and the wide spread systemic failings are reflected in the overall finding that a redress scheme should be fronted by the State.
Written by Paula Jefferson, partner