A Derry social care expert is to sit on the panel of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry.
Geraldine Doherty, a former Registrar of the Scottish Social Services Council, is one of three members of the statutory inquiry panel, chaired by former high court judge Sir Anthony Hart.
Ms Doherty, will bring the experience of a long and distinguished career in the practice and regulation of social work to the panel tasked with hearing evidence of the institutional abuse of children in care homes.
Speaking the ‘Journal’, she called on survivors of abuse in care homes run by the state, religious orders, or other bodies between the 1922 and 1995, to make the decision to come forward and tell their stories in confidence and in a relaxed environment to the Acknowledgement Forum before deciding whether they would be prepared to give evidence to the inquiry at Banbridge courthouse.
“People can chose either just to talk to the Acknowledgment Forum or ask to talk to the statutory inquiry as well. To date more than 80% of people who have come forward have said they want to talk to both.”
Ms Doherty believes it is important that a large proportion of survivors are prepared to speak to the statutory inquiry as well.
“It is vitally important for people across Northern Ireland, the UK and further afield to hear first-hand what the survivors experienced. I think it is really important that people are heard and that all of us as a country relate to what happened and what those children went through.
“It is important for everyone involved in this part of history to acknowledge what happened and to move forward.”
She expects that many details revealed to the inquiry will be both difficult to say and difficult to hear.
“With my professional background as a social worker, I would be used to issues which deal with children being abused and adults being abused. Often with children being abused the impact continues into adult life and it is important to acknowledge that. I am used to dealing with that, but that isn’t to say that I would be distant from it, or not affected by it.”
She stressed the need for as much information as possible from survivors, not only to allow the past to be acknowledged “but to allow us to make recommendations for the future”.
Ms Doherty qualified as a social worker in Belfast in 1979 and began her professional career working in childcare in London. She has wide experience of social work, social care practice, education and training, working in England and Scotland.
In 1996 she was appointed as the Head of the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work in Scotland, in 2000 was she seconded to the Scottish Executive as a special advisor on care services and the registration and regulation of social workers and social care workers. In 2002 she was appointed as the first Registrar of the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC).