Apology to victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland

A message from Michele Janes, Director of Barnardo’s Northern Ireland

I’m here today representing Barnardo’s and want you to know that Barnardo’s has listened to you, the adults, who have shared with us the pain and hurt you suffered as a child placed in our care.
At that time Barnardo’s failed to ensure that some staff and volunteers that we entrusted to care for you, our most vulnerable children, had the skills, experience and values to ensure you had the care that you needed and deserved.
We now know there were times when we failed to query some of the behaviours that staff displayed and when concerns about staff behaviour were reported by you or identified by other staff members we did not use the systems and processes we had in place robustly enough to ensure your voice was heard and appropriate action taken to address your concerns.
We should have ensured that those responsible were removed from their roles immediately. Our failure to do so meant that these people were free to continue working with vulnerable children and for this we are truly sorry.
We acknowledge that the organisational failures at that time led to the abuse you experienced as a child living with us and created a climate of fear and insecurity when you should have felt nurtured and safe.
We had the privilege to meet with some of you and hear your experiences as children and the impact that has had directly on your lives. I know every individual experience will be different and very personal. I reflected on the fear that was described to me-  the fear that came from a look, a word, a noise or an action from those who were supposed to protect you.  You were clearly let down when you were most vulnerable.
We listened when you told us that as well as the absence of family, love and a sense of belonging that many take for granted, what happened to you has led to ongoing struggles as you grew up and in some cases had a family of your own. You told us it has affected your ability to trust others and form relationships of your own. Relationships with partners, with your children, relationships with employers or figures of authority. You told us it affected your feelings of self-worth and your ability to avail yourselves of opportunities. For this we are truly sorry.
Whilst it is not in our gift to go back and change things for you, we have learned from our failings.
We have used what you have told us to continue improving how we engage and train staff and how we monitor and evaluate the work we undertake to ensure that our support of children, young people and families is based on their needs, promotes their wellbeing and helps them aspire to reach their potential.
Today we do have residential care as an option for some children. Our homes are small, and our staff are qualified to work with children. They are all subject to robust recruitment processes, reference checking and extensive vetting prior to having any contact with children.  Our staff receive a comprehensive induction, support, supervision and continuous personal development throughout their employment with us.
We have a child centred and age appropriate complaints system in all our Services to ensure that the children in our care can safely raise issues, that these are properly recorded from their viewpoint and that appropriate action is taken. 
As well as having their own statutory social worker, our children have an identified keyworker, and participate in regular children’s meetings so we can hear from them how we can make things better. Our children also receive support from VOYPIC, an independent organisation that represents the Voice of Children and Young people in Care.
The children in our care are also active members of the wider community, attend school locally and take part in extracurricular activities that are specific to their own areas of interest.
I want to end by thanking all of you who came forward to share your experiences about your time with Barnardo’s and allowing us to learn from you to improve the lives of the children and families we support now. And once again, we apologise for letting you down when you needed us most.