Health Minister Michelle O’Neill has received a copy of the Report of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry.
The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (the Inquiry) was established in 2013 by the Inquiry into Historical Institutional Abuse Act (Northern Ireland) 2013 (the Act) to investigate whether there was institutional abuse in residential iinstitutions that had responsibility for the care, health and welfare of children under 18 between 1922 and 1995, and to decide if there were systemic failings by those institutions or the state in their duties towards those children.
In response to the publication of the report, Minister O’Neill said: “At this stage, I want to acknowledge the pain, hurt and suffering of children at the hands of those who were entrusted with their care in those institutions which were examined by the Inquiry. It is evident that many of them are still living with the legacy of their horrendous childhood experiences.
“In statements made to the Inquiry, my Department conceded systemic failings on the part of predecessor bodies of the Department, specifically in connection with legislation and inspection for which those predecessor bodies had responsibility.
“When we take children into care, we need to do everything possible to keep them safe and to ensure that they receive the best quality care possible. While we cannot ever guarantee the safety and protection of every child all of the time, as Minister of Health, I draw comfort from the fact that we have more robust systems in place today designed, among other things, to minimise the risk of abuse to children in our care. The Changes made to children’s residential care over the decades is acknowledged by the Inquiry.”
Continuing the Minister said: “Today, the vast majority of children are not cared for in institutions and those, who live outside of family arrangements, are cared for in small children’s homes, which are subject to robust and independent systems of inspection conducted against standards set by my department. Children’s rights are now established and protected by law. There are robust arrangements in place to ensure that staff who work in our children’s homes are properly qualified, recruited and trained.
“We have arrangements in place to ensure that children in care have a voice and that they are encouraged and enabled to make their views, wishes and feelings known. I am determined to build on those arrangements and I have already started that process. It is our intention, subject to consultation, to place existing advocacy services on a statutory basis and I am working to better connect children in care with those who make decisions about their lives. Services for survivors of abuse, including counselling and mental health services, are also available through the Health and Social Board.”
Concluding the Minister said: “I would like to thank Sir Anthony Hart and his team for the work that they have undertaken and completed within the timeframe set by the Executive. This is a substantial report and I want to take the time to consider it fully.”
HIA Support Services continue to be available. They can be accessed by telephoning (028) 9075 0131.
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