Explanatory Notes

Policy background

3 On 29 September 2011 the Northern Ireland Executive announced that it intended to set up an Inquiry into abuse in residential homes in Northern Ireland and on 31 May 2012, the First Minister and deputy First Minister announced the agreed Terms of Reference for the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIAI). The Terms of Reference are available online at: https://www.hiainquiry.org/terms-reference.

4 The Inquiry examined if there were systemic failings by institutions or the state in their duties towards those children in their care between the years of 1922-1995. For the purposes of the Inquiry, a child meant any person under 18 years of age and an institution meant any body, society or organisation with responsibility for the care, health or welfare of children in Northern Ireland, other than a school (but including a training school or borstal), which took decisions about and made provision for the day to day care of children.

5 The Terms of Reference required the Inquiry to make recommendations and findings on the following matters:

an apology – by whom and the nature of the apology;

findings of institutional or state failings in their duties towards the children in their care and if these failings were systemic;

recommendations as to an appropriate memorial or tribute to those who suffered abuse; and

the requirement or desirability for redress to be provided by the institution or the Executive to meet the particular needs of victims

6 The Inquiry Report and Findings were published on 20 January 2017 and as per the Terms of Reference, it was for the Northern Ireland Executive to decide whether to accept the recommendations. The collapse of the Executive shorty after publication however meant the Executive did not have an opportunity to consider the report nor was it laid before the NI Assembly by the First Minister and deputy First Minister. The report is available online at: https://www.hiainquiry.org/historical-institutional-abuse-inquiry-report-chapters.

7 Given the continued uncertainty for victims and survivors created by the absence of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly, the Head of the Civil Service, David Sterling, wrote to Sir Jonathan Stephens, Permanent Secretary at the Northern Ireland Office, noting that decisions on recommendations would ultimately be for NI Ministers but setting out proposals for The Executive Office to commence work on preparing draft legislation in respect of two of the recommendations: 

Establishing a Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse (COSICA); and

Establishing a Redress Board responsible for receiving and processing applications for, and making payments of, compensation to victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse.

8 The legislation was drafted as far as practicable in accordance with the recommendations outlined in the Inquiry Report. Following an extended public consultation on the draft legislation (19 November 2018 – 10 March 2019), The Executive Office published the Report on Responses to the consultation on 13 May 2019. The report is available online at: https://www.executiveoffice-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/execoffice/hia-public-consultation-response-report.pdf.

9 The consultation identified a number of issues requiring ministerial decisions which, at the request of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, were discussed and jointly resolved by six NI political parties. Following this, the draft bills were amended in light of the parties’ recommendations and codified into one Bill in preparation for passage through the UK Parliament.


Prepared 31st October 2019