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Chairman of Survivors North West seeks to reassure victims over compensation time frame

Jon McCourt says institutions responsible should have had their assets frozen to ensure they weren't sold off

Chairman of Survivors North West seeks to reassure victims over compensation time frame

L-R Jon McCourt, Rosetta Trust Chairman Gerry McCann. Patricia Lundy and Conor Ryan outside Westminster

A survivor of historical abuse from Derry has taken steps to reassure victims after it emerged that payments will not be made before Christmas.
It has been revealed that a redress board for victims of historical institutional abuse will be formed by the end of this week.
But Head of the Civil Service, David Sterling, could not give a definitive timeframe for when the first compensation payments will be made.
He met victims and survivors at Stormont on Monday afternoon to discuss the issue where there was some discontent that payments will not be made before Christmas.
Last week, MPs fast-tracked a bill at Westminster to allow victims to receive redress.
Chairman of Survivors North West, Jon McCourt attended Monday's meeting with John Heaney, Survivors (NW) Cyril Glass and Marty Adams, Survivors Together and Gerry McCann and John Rooney, Rosetta Trust, with The Head of the Civil Service (HoCs) David Sterling
Speaking to the Derry News this week, he elaborated on the meeting: "It was stated, it is not envisaged that there will be any definite payments before Christmas. That is despite some rampant misguided speculation that there would be.
"David Sterling (HoCs) was careful to emphasise that it is highly unlikely. However, it is hoped the first redress panel including the president will be in place in weeks. It needs to be in place to open sealed records from the HIA Inquiry at PRONI.
"HoCs will let us know in a month when it's in place and hopefully the delivery schedule. A statement about a time frame of 5 years seems to have rattled a few people."
It is not yet known how many people will claim or qualify for compensation under the scheme, however, the Secretary of State Julian Smith estimated there could be as many as 5,000 - which Mr McCourt believes to be a conservative estimate.
He said: "There is no idea of the total number involved, or who would qualify and come forward, although there is speculation of a ‘low’ estimate of 5,000 potential claimants. The redress scheme will be open for 5 years after the redress board is in place.
"Those who have already given evidence to the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry will be dealt with in the first instance.
"The elderly and critically ill prioritised. Everyone else, world-wide, will have to register and be verified that’s why they will need to keep registration open for the 5 years depending on numbers coming forward after registration is closed the Redress Board will keep working to complete it."
Elderly and gravely ill victims will get priority for the compensation payments, with an initial "acknowledgement payment" of £10,000 given to qualifying claimants. Payments have been capped at a maximum of £80,000, Jon stated.

Pursuit of Institutions

Mr Sterling has said the civil service is "pursuing" state-led institutions and churches to remind them of their "obligations" in terms of contributions to the compensation scheme.
Mr McCourt understands that the government will fund the redress payments and then "hope to recoup some of that" from the institutions at a later stage.
"When Anthony Hart made his recommendations they should have put block orders on every property that those institutions had and said if you're found not to have been at fault you can have your property back."
He pointed to land that has been sold by religious institutions in the intervening period which allowed them to amass "significant sums of money".
Coming out of this week's meeting Mr McCourt is positive about movement in the right direction. "I would love to have had him say 'I will be rolling this out before Christmas', particularly for the elderly and critically ill, but he was not in a position to do that.
"You go into something like this with measured expectations and it will be delivered in a timely fashion, but of course their timely and that of frustrated and traumatised victims is completely different."
Victims and survivors seeking further information can contact the Interim Advocate's Office on 02890893977.

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