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Historical institutional abuse

The Northern Ireland Executive 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

The Inquiry is independent from government and has two main components. One is the Acknowledgement Forum, whose members have been listening to the experiences of those who were children in residential institutions (other than schools) in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995. The work of the Acknowledgement Forum has now ended.

The other component is the Statutory Inquiry. This is investigating whether children suffered abuse in the same institutions between 1922 and 1995, and gathers evidence from those who say they suffered abuse in those institutions, as well as evidence from the institutions themselves, and evidence from government and other public bodies such as health and social care trusts.

The Statutory Inquiry component started its public hearings in January 2014.

The closing date for submitting an application to the Inquiry was Friday 29 November 2013.

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
  • help with reporting abuse incidents to the police

If you need help or advice with any of these issues, 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 because 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
  • phone: 028 9032 3454

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

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

Reporting abuse to the PSNI

The PSNI has 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.

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.

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