Legislation to support victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse – Platform piece

Date published: 20 November 2018

The Executive Office yesterday published three pieces of legislation for consultation to help the victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse.

David Sterling, Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service
David Sterling, Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service

The proposed legislation is to establish a Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse, a Redress Board and a compensation scheme in line with the Hart Report recommendations published in January 2017.

The consultation runs until next February. Once the consultation responses have been analysed, the final proposals for legislation will be put to Ministers for consideration and decisions.

Civil Servants are doing all that they can within the current circumstances in the absence of a functioning Executive to take forward the Hart Report recommendations.

I’ve met with victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse on several occasions since being appointed Head of the Civil Service. I have heard harrowing personal accounts of the destructive impact the abuse has had on many people.

Many of them feel that there is no escape and unfortunately that is something that will live with them for a very long time. They have told me that many years later they are still hurting, still suffering.

I am committed to moving to implementation, as quickly as possible, once Ministers have taken the necessary decisions. I sought to assure victims and survivors of this commitment when I met with their representatives again yesterday just before the consultation was officially launched.

I have delivered on my undertaking given earlier in the year to victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse, that The Executive Office would prepare the necessary legislation to establish a Redress Board and a Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse.

We are now in a position to launch a public consultation on the draft legislation.

This consultation, which opened yesterday (19 November, 2018), runs for a 12-week period until 10 February 2019. It is a key milestone in the process. This public consultation is an opportunity for victims and survivors and other stakeholders to influence the legislative process.

People can only do this if they know about the consultation.

That is why we are advertising extensively – here in the UK, Ireland and Australia – to reach as many people as we possibly can.

The Executive Office will be engaging with victims and survivors, their representative groups and other stakeholders and interested parties over the course of the consultation period.

The first of the general information meetings are taking place as follows:  

  • Clayton Hotel, Belfast – 4pm - 6pm on Tuesday 4 December
  • Maldron Hotel, Derry – 4pm - 6pm on Wednesday 5 December.

Those with an interest can register online to attend. Separately, we are organising individual targeted meetings with the victims and survivors groups.

There is a small group of individuals who were sent to Australia under the Child Migrants Programme and we are engaging with organisations in Australia to ensure they have the same opportunity to respond to the legislative proposals.  

It is my firm intention to have in place an interim advocate for victims and survivors to act as a voice for this vulnerable group. This person should be in place early in January 2019. The advocate will be wholly independent and able to speak for the whole sector.

Abuse is something that is not always talked about. It isn’t an easy conversation but it’s a conversation that needs to take place.

This has been a challenging and complex area of work, particularly in the absence of an Executive, however we owe it to victims and survivors to do all we can for them.

I really want to make progress for all abuse victims and survivors because it’s the right thing to do.

I urge anyone who has an interest to contribute to this consultation.

The consultation is available via the link below:

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