Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
The Executive Office has policy, statutory and budgetary responsibility for the establishment of the redress board and has been leading engagement with victims and survivors' groups. However, my Department is working diligently to establish the redress board and to support Justice Colton to discharge his functions as president-elect of that board.
The president-elect has met the Interim Advocate appointed to act as the voice of victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse and to ensure that their needs are known and communicated, pending the appointment of a Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse, on a number of occasions to discuss the remit of the board. He also met representatives of each of the victims and survivors' groups on 18 December 2019 to discuss a number of issues, including the board's intended approach to the payment of compensation.
Redress board officials are in regular contact with the Interim Advocate's office, and a very helpful meeting with victims' groups to discuss the content of the application form took place on 21 January. A further three meetings based on agendas proposed by the Interim Advocate are scheduled to take place this month to help to inform the board's emerging procedures and guidance. The president-elect is content that any issues raised by the groups about the redress board's emerging procedures should be shared with redress board officials via the Interim Advocate's office. Redress board officials will continue to engage with the groups through the Interim Advocate to ensure that the redress scheme meets their needs.
I thank the Minister for her full answer, in which she mentioned the application form. Will she clarify whether the groups will get sight of the application form before it is published?
I mentioned that three further meetings would take place by the end of February. I am not clear as to whether the application form will be the subject of discussion at those meetings, but I will check and revert to the Member in writing to confirm that with him one way or the other.
I, too, welcome the Minister to her new post. Following the letter from the head of the Civil Service, David Sterling, to six institutions in late 2019 that stated that institutions had an obligation to contribute to payments for victims, will she outline what discussions she has had with Executive colleagues regarding contributions from such institutions towards compensation for victims of HIA?
My understanding is that the payments will be done by the end of April. The board will be open to receive application forms by the end of March. Applicants will then be dealt with as swiftly as they can be, but that will depend, obviously, on the volume and complexity of the applications that are received.
In deciding the priority order of applications to be processed, the board will have due regard to the age and health of the applicant. It will be possible to submit application forms online or on paper. It is anticipated that the panel will sit to determine the first payments from 20 April and those first payments will be made in early May.
Like previous Members, I take the opportunity to welcome the Minister, a colleague of mine, to her post, and I wish her well for the future.
Can I ask for clarification from the Minister whether those who have already given evidence to the Hart inquiry will also be required to give evidence again to the redress board?
That will not be the case. Applicants who gave evidence to the Hart inquiry will not be required to provide further written evidence to the redress board unless they wish to do so. They will be asked if they are content for the redress board to determine their application on the basis of the evidence of the Hart inquiry, and the redress board will then obtain a copy of that from the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland on the applicant's behalf.