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 process applications for compensation and to make awards of compensation to those who have been abused within the HIA Inquiry Terms of Reference.  The President of the Historical Institutional Abuse Redress Board is the Hon Mr Justice Adrian Colton.

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 (eg children’s home, borstal or training school)  in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995 (both dates inclusive); and
  • suffered or witnessed abuse, or were subject to a harsh environment.

You may also be eligible to apply if you were sent to Australia from Northern Ireland under the Child Migrant 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 regards 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

In light of the ongoing Covid 19 outbreak, please do not visit a solicitor’s office.  Follow current health advice to stay at home and make contact by telephone or email.

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 the Covid 19 outbreak and staff working digitally from home, there could be delays in sending out and in processing paper applications. 

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

For further information, see the frequently asked questions.

If you are unsure how to apply, call the Interim Advocate’s Office on 028 9089 3977

If you are a solicitor, information on how to process applications for clients can be found here

Interim advocate

The Interim Advocate 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
  • provide general guidance to those wishing to make an application to the HIA Redress Board.

The Interim Advocate appointment  was on 12 August 2019.

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.

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

If you need help or advice with any of these issues, you can contact Advice NI and ask for a HIA advisor, Monday to Friday between 9.00 am and 5.00 pm:

  • 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. 

More useful links

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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