Historical institutional abuse

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

Redress Board and compensation scheme

The Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Redress Board in Northern Ireland has been set up to receive and make determinations of awards of compensation to victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse falling within the HIA Inquiry Terms of Reference.  

The President of the Historical Institutional Abuse Redress Board is Mr Justice Ian Huddleston.

The compensation scheme run by HIA Redress Board in Northern Ireland is open.  

You may be eligible to apply for compensation if you:

  • were resident in an 'institution' (for example, children’s home, borstal or training school) in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995 (both dates inclusive)

and

  • suffered or witnessed sexual, physical, emotional abuse or neglect or maltreatment, or were subject to a harsh environment

‘Institution’ means an institution in Northern Ireland in which a body, society, or organisation with responsibility for the care, health and welfare of children provided residential accommodation for children, took decisions about them and made provision for their day-to-day care.

You may also be eligible to apply if you were sent to Australia from Northern Ireland under the Child Migrants Programme.

You can also apply on behalf of someone who died on or after 28 April 1953 if you are the deceased person’s surviving:

  • spouse
  • civil partner
  • cohabiting partner
  • child

For further information and to make an application, contact a solicitor. They will provide independent advice with regard to your eligibility and assist you to make an application. 

Free legal advice is available to all applicants to the HIA Redress Board.

If you do not have a solicitor, help is available from the Law Society website.

If you wish to apply without engaging the services of a solicitor, an application form can be downloaded from the Redress Board websiteor a hard copy can be requested by emailing admin@hiaredressni.uk

Given the current restrictions due to COVID-19 and staff working digitally from home, there could be delays in sending out and in processing paper applications. 

The application process will stay open for a period of five years from 3 April 2020.

If you are unsure how to apply, phone the office of the Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse on 028 9089 3977.

If you are a solicitor, information on how to process applications for clients can be found on the HIA Redress Board website.

Appointment of the Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse (COSICA)

Fiona Ryan was appointed as Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse (COSICA) by the First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill and took up post on 14 December 2020.

This post will hold a five-year term.

You can contact COSICA by post, email or telephone.

The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry

The independent inquiry into historical institutional abuse closed in June 2017 after 223 days of hearings.

The Inquiry investigated:

  • 22 institutions in Northern Ireland
  • the circumstances surrounding the sending of child migrants from Northern Ireland to Australia
  • the activities of the late Father Brendan Smyth

The Inquiry had two main parts. One was the Acknowledgement Forum, whose members listened to the experiences of people who were children in residential institutions (other than schools) in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995. 

The second part was the Statutory Inquiry, which investigated whether children suffered abuse in the same institutions between 1922 and 1995.

It gathered evidence from people who said they suffered abuse in those institutions, as well as evidence from the institutions, and evidence from government and other public bodies such as health and social care trusts.

Final report

In its report, the inquiry recommended:

  • an apology
  • a memorial
  • additional service provision/ specialist care and help for those who were abused
  • a statutory commissioner for survivors of institutional childhood abuse (COSICA)
  • financial compensation to be administered by a redress board
  • annual grant funding for the Child Migrants Trust

To read the final report and recommendations, go to: 

Historical Institutional Abuse (Northern Ireland) Act 2019

The Historical Institutional Abuse (NI) Act 2019 became an Act of Parliament on 5 November 2019.

Support measures for survivors of historical institutional abuse 

On 1 December 2020, the Victims and Survivors Service (VSS) launched a dedicated support service for survivors of historical institutional abuse.

The VSS are working in partnership with the WAVE Trauma Centre and Advice NI to deliver a range of support and services regionally across NI.

They will also make sure that survivors who are now living outside NI have access to the support and services that they need.

This will include dedicated health and wellbeing caseworker support, counselling, complementary therapies, disability aids, persistent pain and a range of other social and welfare support.

This service can be accessed from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm, Monday to Friday, by phoning 028 9031 1678 or emailing hiaenquiries@vssni.org

Further information can be found at this link:

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.

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 (PRONI)

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.

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 social services in Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Trusts

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

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