In an example of life continuing during the current difficult time, it was announced on 31 March that the Northern Irish Redress scheme was now available to accept applications. It had been intended that there would be familiarisation training sessions for survivors and solicitors in the working of the scheme but this has had to be re-considered.
An online portal has been provided to raise concerns via the website www.hiaredressni.uk and that site will provide access to the online applications process. There is guidance on how to apply, the costs and fees structures for lawyers and a template for structuring claims.
The scheme follows on from the recommendations made by the Historic Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIAI) and was created by legislation rushed through parliament before the pre Brexit proroguing.
The process covers anyone who was in a residential institution in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995. They must have suffered or witnessed abuse in that home. It does not cover boarding schools.
Applicants can apply themselves or the family of someone who has died recently who was in an institution can make an application on behalf of the deceased.
While the applications can be made in person the NI Executive has advised that if someone wishes to speak to a solicitor they should do so over the telephone or use email in the present climate.
The opening of the scheme was widely welcomed by those representing victims and survivors with Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty calling it a “momentous day”.
The scheme will allow payments of between £10,000 and £100,000 depending on circumstances and an initial sum of around £37.5m has been set aside. It is anticipated that the final payouts will exceed £100m. The NI Executive will be looking to Westminster to assist with this substantial budget and the present financial burden on government, both local and national, will mean that significant additional funds will need to be administered carefully.
Credit must go to High Court Judge Adrian Colton and his staff for getting the scheme up and running at this time with all of the difficulties created recently. The Executive has warned that getting payments out may be slower than they had hoped at present but that they are working hard to ensure the scheme will operate as intended.
Ciara McReynolds, Solicitor, BLM