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Historical institutional abuse

The Northern Ireland Executive has set up an inquiry and investigation into historical institutional abuse. That is, abuse of children under 18 who were living in children’s homes, borstals, training schools, juvenile justice centres, hospitals and orphanages in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995.

The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry

Part of the inquiry is an Acknowledgement Forum to which victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse can talk in private about what happened to them when they were children living in these institutions.

Another part includes a statutory inquiry. Some victims and survivors may prefer to describe their experiences directly to the statutory inquiry through the legal team and, if required, at public hearings.

Closing date for applications

The closing date for all applications for consideration by those abused as a child while living in an institution within Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995 was Friday 29 November 2013.

The closing date for applications to the Acknowledgement Forum was Wednesday 30 April 2014.

To find out more about the Inquiry into historical institutional abuse, including how to take part and details of public hearings and sitting days, please go to:

Consultation on the Inquiry into Historical Institutional Abuse Rules (Northern Ireland) 2013

A public consultation was carried out on the draft Inquiry into Historical Institutional Abuse Rules. It closed on 24 May 2013. To find out more and to see the responses, go to:

Help for victims and survivors

A support service for historical institutional abuse victims and survivors has been established and help, support and advice is available in the following areas:

  • benefits and housing
  • debt and personal finance
  • education and further education, jobs and training
  • searching for personal records
  • assistance with reporting abuse incidents to the police

If you need help or advice with any of these issues, you can contact the support service (Monday to Friday between 9.00 am and 5.00 pm) on:

  • phone: 028 9075 0131

The service will also provide non-crisis counselling for victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse.

For those who require crisis counselling, and are in distress or despair as a consequence of historical institutional abuse, support is available at the Lifeline helpline:

You can call free, in confidence, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Somewhere for victims and survivors to meet and talk

Two drop in centres for historical institutional abuse victims and survivors were established, one in Belfast and one in Derry/ Londonderry. Historical institutional abuse victims and survivors can get together every Friday to discuss issues, meet with peers and ease tensions and anxieties over a cup of tea or coffee. A trained counsellor is on hand to offer extra help and support as required.

The Belfast drop in centre is provided by Relate NI is located at the following address:

Relate offices
3rd Floor
Glengall Exchange
3 Glengall Street
Belfast
  • phone: 028 9032 3454

The Derry/Londonderry drop-in centre is provided by WAVE and is located at:

Wave Trauma Centre
23a Bishop Street
Londonderry
  • phone number: 028 7126 6655

Report abuse to the PSNI

The PSNI have specialist units who will investigate all reports of institutional abuse. You can find addresses and phone numbers for these units by using the following link.

Other help available

Below are links to other kinds of government help that victims have said they need most. If there is other information you would like, please contact the historical institutional abuse unit in the Office of the First and deputy First Minister at:

Claiming benefits

You can get help and advice on all social security benefits from Jobs and Benefits Offices or from the Benefit Shop, Castle Court.

Or you can find information about benefits at the nidirect page below.

Homelessness and housing

You can get information and advice about your housing options from

Education, training and work

The Careers Service offers advice to young people and adults about education, training and employment. You can find your local careers adviser by using the following link.

Or you can read more at:

Birth and family records

General Register Office of Northern Ireland (GRO)

The General Register Office holds the records of births, deaths, marriages, civil partnerships and adoptions in Northern Ireland.

There is a search room open to the public for anyone who wants to use the records to trace family members.

Access to adoption records is more restricted. An adopted person may apply to see their original birth record. They can also register their interest in tracing family members through the Adoption Contact Register.

Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI)

The Public Record Office holds some records which may help victims of abuse. It also has records to help you research your family tree and advice to help you start.

You can search the records online or visit the PRONI building and search in person.

In general PRONI does not hold:

  • records of voluntary homes
  • records of homes run by religious orders - these may still be with the relevant order
  • files of individual children in care – from 1947 these are held by the Social Service Departments of the Northern Ireland Health Trusts.

More useful links