Mother-and-baby Homes: Support for Victims

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 26th April 2021.

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Photo of Paula Bradshaw Paula Bradshaw Alliance 2:30 pm, 26th April 2021

T5. Ms Bradshaw asked the Minister of Health to outline how the services and support that his Department is providing to the birth mothers who were involved in the mother-and-baby homes is being monitored and to state how he is ensuring that the people who were retraumatised by the launch of the report on the mother-and-baby homes are getting the support that they have asked for, given that, as Members may recall, when the report was published, she did not share in their enthusiasm, in that she was frustrated that, after many years of banging on the door of his Department with the birth mothers and their children who were looking for justice, when, finally, it appeared that they were getting a bit of attention, she was very upset last week to meet with some birth mothers and hear that social workers who were meant to reply to them over a month ago regarding the family tracing service had not done so and that, although the victims had reached out for counselling a month or six weeks ago, they had received no response. (AQT 1225/17-22)

Photo of Robin Swann Robin Swann UUP

The Member will note that the report was co-sponsored by the Executive Office and my Department. Work has been done on that, and a management board has now been established. I would appreciate it if the Member could write to me on the specifics about social workers and access so that we can follow up on those individual cases. That is not something that I want to reflect. When we, from our side, launched the report, which was a necessary and long-overdue piece of work, I think that I gave Members an assurance at the time that we would put as much effort as possible into supporting the birth mothers. I am therefore disappointed to hear of those failings and gaps. I will certainly follow up on the detail that the Member asks for.

Photo of Paula Bradshaw Paula Bradshaw Alliance

Thank you, Minister, for your commitment. I take you to be sincere there.

You will be aware that the Executive Office has started a reference group on historical clerical child sex abuse. You will also aware that the like of Nexus, which provides counselling for sexual abuse victims, has hundreds of people — perhaps over 500 — on its waiting list. I am concerned, Minister, that, as this gets a bit of momentum and there is a wee bit more public discussion about bringing people forward to disclose that they have been a victim, the support will again not be there for them. Can we pre-empt that a wee bit by making sure that counselling in that very sensitive area is in place?

Photo of Robin Swann Robin Swann UUP

Again, I thank the Member for her very specific question, on what is a very sensitive but important piece of work. Those support mechanisms should be there. I know that we have engaged with voluntary and community organisations to ensure that they are there as a backup and as support in many cases. Again, I will follow up on the specifics and get back to the Member.