Historical institutional abuse

The Northern Ireland Executive set up an inquiry and investigation into historical institutional abuse. The inquiry covers 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 parts. 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 part is the Statutory Inquiry, which investigates whether children suffered abuse in the same institutions between 1922 and 1995. It gathers evidence from people, 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 closing date for submitting an application to the inquiry was Friday 29 November 2013.

The Statutory Inquiry started its public hearings in January 2014, with hearings now concluded.

Final report

The final report along with findings and recommendations is available to read or download from the link below:

Help for victims and survivors

The Historical Institutional Abuse Support Service provides non-crisis counselling for victims and survivors. It can also offer help 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 PSNI

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

If you need help urgently

If you are in distress because of historical institutional abuse, and need to speak to someone urgently you can call the Lifeline helpline.

You can call Lifeline for free on 0808 808 8000 from UK landlines and mobiles, in confidence, 24 hours a day, seven days a week

Support for victims and survivors giving evidence

If you are giving evidence to the inquiry in Banbridge you will be able to speak to a Contact NI counsellor on sitting days.

The inquiry’s Witness Support Officers also provide a dedicated service to victims and survivors throughout written and oral testimonies.

Somewhere for victims and survivors to meet and talk

The Wave Trauma Centre in Derry/Londonderry holds a drop in centre for historical institutional abuse victims and survivors every Friday. You can meet with other victims and survivors and talk over a cup of tea or coffee.

A qualified and trained counsellor is also on hand to offer extra help and support.

Reporting abuse to the PSNI

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has specialist units across Northern Ireland, based within Public Protection Units (PPU), who will investigate all reports of institutional abuse.

Find your nearest child abuse investigation unit, by contacting the PSNI.

Help finding information

If you are looking for information on your family history or a public record the organisations below may be able to help you.

General Register Office for Northern Ireland (GRONI)

The General Register Office for Northern Ireland (GRONI) holds 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.

You can also search for records online

Access to adoption records is more restricted. If you were adopted you can apply to see your original birth record.

Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

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

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

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

More useful links

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