The Historical Institutional Abuse Redress Board (“the HIA Redress Board”) is responsible for receiving and processing applications for compensation from those who experienced abuse in residential institutions in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995. The HIA Redress Board was established on foot of recommendations made by the Historic Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIAI) and was created by legislation rushed through the UK Parliament before the pre-Brexit proroguing. 

The HIA Redress Board opened for applications on 31 March 2020. It is scheduled to remain open for another 14 months until 3 April 2025. The HIA Redress Board will allow for payments of redress between £10,000 and £100,000 depending on circumstances and an initial sum of around £37.5m has been set aside. It is anticipated that the final payouts will exceed £100m and it is believed that as many as 5,000 people may be eligible for compensation in recognition of the abuse that they suffered in institutions, organisations or care homes in Northern Ireland.

The Historical Institutional Abuse (Northern Ireland) Act 2019 (“the 2019 Act”) which is the legislation on which the HIA Redress Board is based sets out the amounts of compensation that the HIA Redress Board can award and they are as follows:

  • A standard award payment of £10,000 only;
  • An enhanced award payment of between £10,001 and £80,000; and
  • An amount of £20,000 if the application is made by or in respect of a person who was sent to Australia under the Child Migrant Programme.

Abuse covered by the HIA Redress Scheme includes emotional, physical, sexual abuse and neglect. The HIA Redress Board Annual Report for 2022/2023 was published on 16 October 2023 and it provides as follows:

  • As of 31 March 2023, the HIA Redress Board had received a total of 3,611 applications relating to 6,289 residential placements covering approximately 150 different institutions in Northern Ireland. 1,055 were received in 2022/2023 which is a reduction of 228 on the number of applications received in 2021/2022.
  • On average, each application names more than one institution.
  • Of the 1055 applications received in 2022/2023, 396 (36%) were non-compliant with the basic mandatory information requirements of the 2019 Act, this is in circumstances where 97% of all applicants to the HIA Redress Board are legally represented. However, this figure was significantly reduced in the course of the year due to changes the HIA Redress Board implemented since April 2022.
  • As of 31 March 2023, HIA Redress Board panels have made award determinations totalling £66,427,146, following actuarial adjustments required by Section 13 of the 2019 Act.
  • The average processing time achieved for a compliant application for 2022/23 was 17 weeks - a 15% improvement on last year’s performance of 20 weeks.
  • The HIA Redress Board's expenditure for 2022/2023 totalling £30,986,117 breaks down as follows:

Redress Payments made                               £26,445,416

Applicant’s Legal Costs and Outlays              £927,635

Panel Fees                                                         £1,673,200

Administrative Costs*                                     £1,939,926

*Administrative Costs include Staffing @ £1,566,416, Accommodation @ £176,335, IT Costs @ £83,581, Miscellaneous @ £33,548 and NICTS Management Fee @ £80,046.

With another 14 months to go and the norm being a surge in applications towards the closing stages of a redress scheme, it seems likely that the HIA Redress Scheme will exceed the projected 5,000 applications and £100 million cost.

Having been legislated for by the Westminster Government, even if there is a change of Government at the next election, it seems likely, as we have commented before on this blog, that the current and ongoing national redress schemes in Northern Ireland and Scotland will have a significant influence on Government thinking if/when it finally gets around to actioning IICSA’s recommendation for a single Redress Scheme for victims and survivors of abuse that occurred in England and Wales, including sexual abuse by other children, which the current Government committed to establishing in May 2023. No substantive action other than engagement to learn about the issues and challenges has been taken since that date much to the disappointment of the many victims and survivors who have already been subjected to decades of delay.