The task of trying to put a value on a potential redress scheme is daunting, but is one which is being tackled in Northern Ireland and is likely to be considered in Scotland and England and Wales.
On Monday 17 October representatives of victims and survivors groups in Northern Ireland presented a paper entitled “A Cost Analysis of A Proposed Redress Scheme for Historical Institutional Abuse” in the Long Gallery at Stormont. In the room were survivors and victims, MLAs and members of the media.
This document is the latest step in a process going back to the start of the campaign for an inquiry which gathered over 6000 signatures. That campaign led to the creation of the Historic Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIAI) led by retired High Court Judge, Sir Anthony Hart.
In 2015 a seminar was held at Ulster University and issues of redress were raised with discussions on how this should be handled, interim provisions made and a desire stated for a formal scheme.
In November 2015 Sir Anthony Hart announced that “…there should be a scheme to award financial compensation to those children who suffered abuse in children’s homes and other institutions in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995.”
In March 2016 a report was produced by Ulster University entitled “What Survivors Want from Redress”. This report covered the position from a victim/survivor viewpoint. Through holding workshops and by reference to opinions from legal representatives of institutions, it sought to reflect the views of former residents of institutions. This report recommended a common experience payment of £10,000 per resident and an additional common experience payment of £3000 for each year spent in an institution. Each person could then apply for a further “top up” payment to reflect any abusive experiences suffered by them in the institution.
A further report was prepared entitled “What Survivors Want: Part Two A Comprehension Framework for Historic Abuses in Residential Institutions” in May 2016. This report sets out a “tailor made out of court redress plan” based on consultation with survivors and research and analysis of their views. The March 2015 seminar and March and May 2016 reports are openly victim/survivor led examinations of the redress position.
The reports recommend a financial redress scheme and are against any form of scheduled payment/pension payment approach. They recommend a lump sum approach. There is a strong feeling for a “common experience” payment (as has been paid in some previous schemes) which is paid to all those who were placed in care regardless of the home or the duration of the stay. This would then be coupled to a scheme to reflect the time in care and the experiences reported during that time period.
The final report launched on Monday follows an appearance by representatives of the Executive Office Committee at Stormont in September and is an attempt to cost the possible schemes and to put flesh on the aspirations of the parties contributing to the process.
A figure of £20 million has been quoted in the media. This figure would reflect compensation only being paid to those who have come forward to the HIAI and does not reflect the likely situation where (as has happened in other jurisdictions and schemes) significantly more people will seek a payment from a redress scheme than have come to the Inquiry. It also does not take account of the fact that this Inquiry was limited to a number of institutions and that residents of other institutions would also expect be entitled to avail of the scheme.
The report calculates an estimate of the cost at different levels of claimant and ranges from £20.1 million to £307.3 million to include a contribution to the costs of the applicants.
While the victims and survivors have been pressing for a decision now and some form of interim payment scheme, the Executive is awaiting the full report from the HIAI. It seems unlikely there will be any decision until they have considered any scheme recommended by the panel created to advise on the issues following the evidence gathering they have carried out.
Written by Fintan Canavan, partner