Awareness campaign for Northern Ireland’s victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse

Awareness campaign for Northern Ireland's victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse

A new campaign is seeking to raise awareness of the support, services and redress available for victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland.

From this week, advertisements will be running in regional and local newspapers and on social media platforms to ensure victims and survivors know what support, services and redress are available, and where they can access them.

Denis McMahon, permanent secretary at the Executive Office, said: “Victims and survivors of historical abuse face very personal, difficult and unique challenges as a result of their lived experience across a wide range of institutions and it is important that they get advice on making an application for compensation and access to services they need.”

Since establishment of the office in December 2020, the Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse (COSICA) has worked to promote the interests of victims and survivors, while providing direct advice and support to over 500 people.

To date, 900 people have availed of the help and support offered by the Victims and Survivors Service (VSS). The Historical Institutional Abuse Redress Board have made compensation award determinations of over £65 million so far.

Mr McMahon continued: “The focus now is ensuring those who have not yet come forward know that help is available. We also want to ensure that victims and survivors are fully supported before they submit an application to the Redress Board, so that is why we are advising those who may wish to apply to contact COSICA and VSS in the first instance.”

Fiona Ryan, commissioner for survivors of institutional childhood abuse, said: “I know from many survivors whom I have listened to, the trauma of the abuse they suffered as children is not a distant memory but a reality they live with every day. I know that for others even acknowledging what happened to them is a source of deep pain and shame. Every survivor is an individual and the choice they make about whether, when and how they seek services or redress is their own and should be respected.

“My hope is that this campaign, which has long been asked for by victims and survivors, and my own Office’s international awareness initiative reaches survivors who are unaware or unsure of their entitlements and provides them with the information they need to make informed choices in accessing supports, services and redress.”

Oliver Wilkinson, chair of the VSS, added: “To date our dedicated team have had the privilege of supporting over 900 survivors with tailored packages of care with the support of our community partners Wave Trauma Centre and Advice NI.

“This campaign is a welcome and important step in ensuring that survivors are aware of the full range of supports and services available to them and I would encourage those who wish to avail of support to get in touch with our dedicated team for more information.”

Mr Justice Stephen Fowler, president of the Historical Institutional Abuse Redress Board, said: “We welcome the efforts to increase awareness of victims and survivors to all of the advice and support services available under the redress scheme as envisaged in the Hart Report and underpinned by legislation.”

The awareness campaign began on Monday and will run for two weeks. There will also be additional content signposting victims and survivors to the help and support available on social media platforms on a regular basis. This will be followed later this year by a leaflet drop to all households in Northern Ireland.

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