Institutional Abuse

Children’s homes, approved schools and institutions are places designed to care for and look after some of the most vulnerable members of society. Children are placed at these homes for many reasons, but often come from troubled backgrounds and need support and guidance that has been missing in their family life. There is a duty on the home and their employees to care for and protect the child and ensure that there is a safe and supportive environment for them.

In today’s society, we hear too often that staff members at such homes have failed to provide the care and protection for these children and used their position of trust to abuse children in their care. In such child abuse cases, those responsible for the operation of the home can be held liable.

Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA)

What is Institutional Abuse?

Institutional abuse refers to an instance(s) when people are mistreated by individuals or a support system designed to provide care for them. There are many different types of institutional abuse, from those occurring in children’s homes, where staff responsibilities are to look after the youngsters, to boarding school abuse.

It has also come to light that such abuse can also take place in churches and other religious establishments, sports buildings, swimming pools, clubs and leisure premises.

It can take the form of physical and sexual attacks, or neglect abuse. There are various reasons why these types of institutional abuse occur, such as:

  • Poorly trained staff
  • Inadequate management
  • Closed culture
  • Abusive individuals in power

The quicker concerns about institutional abuse are raised, the faster it can be stopped. However, historical instances can still be brought to justice.

Historical institutional abuse – Northern Ireland

Following the recommendation of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry and Investigation (the Hart Report), the Historical Institutional Abuse (Northern Ireland) Act 2019 was passed on 5th November, 2019. The Act provides financial compensation for children (or their estate if they have died between 28th April 1953 and 1st April 2018) who were abused in institutions in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995. It also provides compensation for children sent to Australia under the Childs Migrant Programme. Under the Act, a Redress Board is being appointed to deal with applications for compensation and on 15th November 2019, Mr. Justice Colton was appointed as President of the Board. The remaining non judicial members of the Board will be appointed in the near future and the compensation scheme should come into operation shortly thereafter. 

We have extensive experience in dealing with claims for institutional abuse. We have previously advised clients in similar matters and have acted in the Republic of Ireland in compensation claims for institutional abuse before their Redress Board. If you are a victim or survivor (or family member of a deceased victim) of historical institutional abuse, we can help you in getting the support you need and recover compensation for you. If you do not reside in Northern Ireland, our information technology platforms will allow us to progress any applications we make on your behalf both through our secure online systems and videoconferencing facilities. 

Please contact us on 02871362299 or email on [email protected].

How Kearney Law Can Help

It is always important to report any abuse to the police, no matter how long ago it was committed. We can help you through this process. Police forces now have well trained and highly skilled officers who specialise in dealing with allegations of abuse.

If the abuse takes place by a staff member of the children’s home in the course of their employment, a court is likely to find those operating the home responsible.

If you have been a victim of abuse within a children’s home, we are here to listen to your experiences. We will provide advice on the legal options available and the prospects of obtaining compensation for the impact that neglect and abuse has had on your life.


Our expert solicitors will endeavour to recover compensation to allow you to seek the required support and rebuild your life, whatever the nature of your abuse claims.

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