Coronavirus creating ‘huge challenges’ compensating abuse victims

Coronavirus creating ‘huge challenges’ compensating abuse victims

Coronavirus is creating “huge challenges” for compensating victims of historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland, officials said.

Obtaining assessments from hard-pressed GPs, arranging meetings with solicitors and protecting administrative staff are among obstacles posed by the outbreak.

Civil servant Mark Browne warned: “The virus is moving quicker than the law is at this point.”

Paying compensation to those who suffered harm when they were in homes run by church and state was among recommendations from the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) public inquiry.

It examined allegations of physical, emotional and sexual harm of children in residential institutions between 1922 and 1995.

Stormont Executive Office officials Mr Browne and Gareth Johnston gave evidence to a scrutiny committee of the devolved Assembly about rules surrounding the redress scheme.

They said restrictions linked to Covid-19 were changing and tightening day-by-day.

Mr Browne said they did not want to make additional demands on GPs at this time of crisis when the health service is in danger of being overwhelmed.

He added: “There are huge challenges.”

Campaigners have been lobbying for compensation to be implemented since the HIA inquiry ended in January 2017; some have been waiting 50 or 60 years for help (Paul Faith/PA)
Campaigners have been lobbying for compensation to be implemented since the HIA inquiry ended in January 2017; some have been waiting 50 or 60 years for help (Paul Faith/PA)

Campaigners have been lobbying for compensation to be implemented since the HIA inquiry ended in January 2017; some have been waiting 50 or 60 years for help.

They endured further long delays when devolved powersharing collapsed days after the inquiry report was published and was only restored earlier this year.

Sinn Féin Assembly member Martina Anderson urged that the process be “coronavirus-proofed”.

She added: “As victims they are running out of patience.”

    Useful information
  • The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here
  • Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people - this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department;
  • GPs Out of Hours services are not in a position to order testing for patients with normal cold and flu-like symptoms. HSELive is an information line and similarly not in a position to order testing for members of the public. The public is asked to reserve 112/999 for medical emergencies at all times.
  • ALONE has launched a national support line and additional supports for older people who have concerns or are facing difficulties relating to the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Ireland. The support line will be open seven days a week, 8am-8pm, by calling 0818 222 024

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