“Common Experience” Redress payments

Earlier this year the University of Ulster (UUJ) along with Amnesty International (AI) met with representatives of those who had been in residential care in Northern Ireland and their legal representatives to discuss the issue of redress.  The issue of redress arose again yesterday when former residents of homes protested outside Stormont demanding interim payments towards redress be made now.

The work of UUJ and AI followed the announcement from the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA) that they would be making some form of compensation recommendations in their final report, although the nature of that compensation has not been discussed in the public forum.

The final report must be presented to the Office of First and Deputy First Minister by the middle of January 2017 in line with the statutory basis of the HIA. It is anticipated the report will contain a detailed review of the evidence presented to the hearings, as well as the significant volumes of documentary evidence made available to the HIA but not necessarily discussed in the Inquiry chamber due to the strict timetable under which HIA has operated.  The Report will no doubt contain many recommendations including with regard to redress.

It is likely that the HIA will be looking at the work already undertaken with regard to redress in Canada, Ireland and Australia. It would be surprising if aspects of the Residential Institutions Redress Board in Ireland did not serve as a starting point for any recommendations they will make.

The UUJ discussion was a survivor focussed view and the opinions in that report were taken solely from the survivor perspective.  The discussions focussed on the redress issue and on aspects such as the right of surviving family members to recover compensation due to their parents as well as how compensation should be calculated.

A popular idea was a “common experience” payment to anyone who spent time in the care system set at £10,000 irrespective of how long the person spent in care.  This could be topped up with a payment set at £3000 for each year spent in care.  These payments were irrespective of the potential for claims for compensation for abuse whilst in care and it was suggested a second stream of payments would be devised to address the issue of abuse in care.

The protests this week were whilst discussions were held over the appointment of new Ministers to the Executive following the elections earlier this month.  The protesters were demanding that interim payments be made now and that when the budgets are discussed for the new political term funds are set aside for this purpose.  They requested that the payments start now even before the HIA reports.

As yet there has been no request for any comment on the issue from those institutions who provided care, nor any detail about who would be responsible for payment of this redress. Inevitably whatever is decided in Northern Ireland will impact on similar decisions in England, Wales and Scotland.


Written by Fintan Canavan, partner

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