The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry
The inquiry into historical institutional abuse officially fulfilled its terms of reference on 30 June 2017 and is now closed.
The inquiry was independent from government and 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 other 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.
The inquiry investigated 22 institutions, as well as the circumstances surrounding the sending of child migrants from Northern Ireland to Australia; and the activities of the late Father Brendan Smyth. The investigations were divided into 15 separate modules with 223 days of hearings.
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.
The Bill was welcomed by the NI Head of the Civil Service in a statement.
Redress Board and compensation scheme
On 19 November 2019, The Lord Chief Justice, Sir Declan Morgan, announced the appointment of the Hon Mr Justice Adrian Colton as the President of the Historical Institutional Abuse Redress Board.
This was an important milestone in the implementation process, as it allows Mr Justice Colton to begin important preparatory work.
The Head of the NI Civil Service welcomed the appointment of the President in a statement.
Timetable for compensation
On 17 December 2019 the Head of the Civil Service David Sterling met with key representatives of the victims groups to set out the timetable for the compensation of victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse.
This included the commissioning of an online application system for the Redress Board; liaison with institutions and PRONI around availability of records capable of verifying claims, and preparations of the appointment process for a Commissioner for Survivors of Childhood Institutional Abuse (COSICA) and the multi-disciplinary members of the Redress Board.
In terms of timescales it is envisaged that:
- Applications will be open at the end of March 2020;
- Redress Board Panels will be available to sit from the end of April 2020; and
- First payments to follow as soon as possible after determination by the Redress Board.
- The application process will be open for a period of 5 years once the Redress Board is operational.
On 2 July, the Head of the Civil Service, appointed the interim advocate for victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse.
They will operate until the statutory Commissioner for Victims and Survivors of Historical Institutional Childhood Abuse has been appointed, in line with the recommendation in the Hart Inquiry report.
The interim advocate is independent of government and will act as a voice for victims and survivors. They will:
- advocate on behalf of victims and survivors during the passage of legislative proposals
- work with service providers to make sure the needs of victims and survivors are known and emphasised
- reach out to victims and survivors in other jurisdictions
- be a channel of communications for the sector
The interim advocate took up their role on 12 August 2019.
To read more about the interim advocate, go to:
For the interim advocate's contact details, go to:
Help for victims and survivors
Advice NI, on behalf of The Executive Office (TEO), can offer advice and support to victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse. You can get advice about:
- benefits and housing
- debt and personal finance
- education and further education, jobs and training
- searching for personal records
- help reporting abuse incidents to the PSNI
- telephone: 028 9064 5919
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
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 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.
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.