Northern Ireland news

Karen Bradley 'making excuses' over redress payments for institutional abuse survivors

(left to right) Kate Walmsley, Ron Graham, and Margaret McGuckin from the Savia lobby group. Picture by Liam McBurney, Press Association

A LEADING campaigner has accused the Secretary of State of "making excuses" amid a row over compensation payments for victims of institutional abuse.

Karen Bradley insisted yesterday that she is committed to the payments but that survivors cannot be compensated until the Stormont parties address fundamental questions about the redress scheme.

She said that raising the issue during fresh talks aimed at restoring power-sharing at Stormont would be the "quickest possible way to bring this issue to a resolution".

However, Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse (Savia) have dismissed Mrs Bradley's approach and called on her to fast-track legislation through the Commons.

In a letter to Mrs Bradley, seen by The Irish News, the group suggested that one of the working groups involved in the talks could present her with "an agreed piece of legislation to carry forward" which would not need her own input.

Savia said the legislation could be fast-tracked into law "following a review by victims and survivors groups".

Read More: Karen Bradley 'should resign' over failure to deliver compensation for abuse victims

"We cannot wait for an Assembly and Executive to get back together, nor for this process to exhaust itself, as all other 'wait and see' strategies you have deployed have resulted in nothing but more heartache for victims and survivors," the group wrote.

"We both know that even if the talks are fruitful, that the timescale for getting things re-established would see this issue further pushed back and we are not prepared – or able – to wait any longer."

The Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry recommended compensation payments to victims more than two years ago. The scheme would have seen pay-outs of between £7,500 and £100,000.

The inquiry also made other recommendations including bespoke care packages for victims and a memorial to be built in the grounds of Stormont.

Margaret McGuckin from Savia said the group is due to meet Mrs Bradley next Monday to express its dismay at how she has handled the sensitive issue.

"She doesn't seem to grasp the situation," she said.

"She needs to call a meeting and explain herself. It's like she's making excuses and she doesn't know what she's talking about."

Since the HIA report was published in January 2017, 32 abuse victims have died.

Claire McKeegan of Phoenix Law, who represents the majority of abuse survivors, said: "The ongoing delay serves only to further deny justice to those who would be eligible for redress as many victims have passed on or are elderly and infirm."

"The failure to address the much needed and long awaited care package for survivors' complex mental health needs is negligent and harmful," she said.

"It is well documented that survivors of childhood abuse suffer permanent and lifelong mental health conditions. The report promised 'bespoke care' and this basic human ask has not been delivered."

Mrs Bradley said yesterday that a public consultation on the proposed redress scheme had identified issues which needed to be discussed with the parties before she could table a final bill.

Questions around the total compensation bill, how much religious orders should contribute and how the redress board will decide on the level of compensation for each victim are due to be discussed.

Mrs Bradley insisted the establishment of the redress scheme was not dependent on a successful talks process.

"To be absolutely clear, this is not part of a talks process, this is a piece of work so we can answer the fundamental questions and get on and deliver for those people that I desperately want to deliver for," she said.

Mrs Bradley also said she met HIA chairman Sir Anthony Hart yesterday morning to seek his views.

"I have asked him would he work with my officials also so we can deliver," she said.

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