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Ministers announce new support services for HIA survivors

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First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill have announced a range of support measures for survivors of Historical Institutional Abuse.

The dedicated measures – including health and wellbeing, social support and related services for victims and survivors of HIA – will be delivered by the Victims and Survivors Service (VSS).

First Minister Arlene Foster said: “Today marks a further step in the implementation of the Hart recommendations. It follows the opening of the Redress Scheme earlier this year, and the appointment of Fiona Ryan as Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse, who will take up office on 14 December.

“The new service will offer dedicated health and wellbeing caseworkers; talking therapies; welfare support; drop-in and social support; and, when COVID restrictions allow, complementary therapies. I commend all those involved in this important step.”

The deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill said: “Historical Institutional Abuse has left a legacy of untold physical and emotional damage in our society. We cannot undo the wrongs of the past, but we will do what we can to address the impact of that damage.

“These services are an important step, and I acknowledge the collaborative effort involved by the Victims and Survivors Service and the HIA Interim Advocate.

“Victims and survivors themselves have contributed to the design of these services and will contribute to their ongoing development. It is they who remain at the centre of our efforts.”

The new package builds on a range of services that have been available to HIA victims and survivors, both during the HIA Inquiry and since. These have included counselling, advice, and an interim service for psychological therapies and emotional support put in place earlier this year.

They will be co-ordinated by a central Health and Wellbeing team based within the VSS in Belfast and will be delivered in a range of locations here as well as further afield.

Chief Executive of the VSS, Margaret Bateson said: “We welcome the launch of this much needed service for survivors of HIA. Over the last number of months, we have had the privilege to engage with survivors of HIA to ensure that this service has been co-designed and led by them. We will continue to listen, learn and adapt as these services are rolled out.

“Our dedicated HIA staff in VSS will work with our community partner to ensure survivors are supported, empowered and get access to the health and wellbeing support and services that they need.

“The range of support and services available will include psychological therapies, personal and professional development, complementary therapies, health and wellbeing caseworker support, welfare support, outreach and befriending, disability aids and management of persistent pain.”

The VSS will also work with the new Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Abuse (COSICA) and the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Redress Board.

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