The First Minister and deputy First Minister have announced that the Historical Institutional Abuse Redress Board is open for applications.
Welcoming the news, First Minister Arlene Foster said: “Following the passage of the legislation in November 2019, officials across a number of departments have been working at pace to ensure that the Redress Board and compensation scheme opens as quickly as possible. As a result, I am pleased to confirm that the HIA Redress Board has today opened for applications.”
The First Minister added: “With the coronavirus outbreak, this is a challenging time for government and indeed for society as a whole. However, we owe it to victims and survivors to ensure work continues in this key area as far as is possible in the current circumstances. Decisions will inevitably take longer than originally planned but victims and survivors can be assured we are committed to doing all we can to progress payments. Redress panel members and staff are working from home, so you can help us by applying through a solicitor, which keeps the applications digital.”
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “Historical institutional abuse should never have happened. This was wrong. It robbed thousands of children of their childhood who were failed by a system that should have protected them. It is a sad reality that so many of these children were forced to spend their lives carrying extraordinary trauma, pain and suffering. While no scheme will make up for what was endured, we owe it to all victims and survivors to ensure that they get the redress they deserve.
“As we launch the Historical Institutional Abuse Redress Board today our thoughts are with all victims and survivors, and their families. My thoughts today are also with those who are no longer with us. Redress has been a long time coming and I pay tribute to all victims and survivors who, through their collective will, determination and resilience, have brought us to this important day of acknowledgement.
“I would encourage as many of those affected as possible to come forward and make an application to the Redress Board, through a solicitor if possible.”
The best way to make an application to the redress board is to contact a solicitor. Free legal advice is available to all applicants to the HIA Redress Board to assist with the application. But please don’t visit a solicitor’s office. Follow the health advice to stay at home and telephone or email.
Anyone who was resident in an institution here between 1922 and 1995 and suffered or witnessed abuse or were subject to a harsh environment can apply to the Redress Board. You may also be eligible to apply if you were sent to Australia under the Child Migrant Programme.
You can also apply on behalf of someone who has died if you are their spouse, civil partner, cohabiting partner or child. We know that financial redress cannot take away the harm people have experienced but it is an acknowledgement from the Executive of what victims and survivors have suffered.
There is a five-year window in which to make applications, so applicants who prefer to wait until they can deal face-to-face with a solicitor will still have plenty of time to lodge an application. Alternatively an application form can be printed off from the Redress Board website at www.hiaredressni.uk or is available by e-mailing the HIA Redress Board at email@example.com.
In the current public health situation, The Executive Office and the Board have put additional technology and other contingency arrangements in place, but have welcomed the recognition on the part of victims’ and survivors’ groups that systems are not operating as originally envisaged and this will have an impact on timescales.
Victims and survivors have been engaged throughout the work on policy and legislation for the scheme and also, through the Interim Advocate Brendan McAllister, in the design of applications processes and practical considerations relating to the scheme. The Interim Advocate’s website includes a list of frequently asked questions at www.hiainterimadvocate.org.uk/faqs.html