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.
They endured further long delays when devolved powersharing collapsed days after the inquiry report was published and was only restored earlier this year.
Sinn Fein Assembly member Martina Anderson urged that the process be “coronavirus-proofed”.
She added: “As victims they are running out of patience.”