Clerical sex abuse survivor awarded state benefits

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By Michael McHugh, Press Association

A survivor of clerical child sex abuse in Northern Ireland, who said she felt "interrogated" by the benefits system, has been awarded state payments.

Kate Walmsley has been left with a series of health complaints and lingering trauma.

She met senior officials from the Social Security Agency in Belfast last autumn and has expressed concern over her treatment by staff during the transition to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefit.

She said: "I would love to work, but I could not cope.

"I am someone who would be very dedicated to whatever company I did work for, but I just felt overwhelmed by too many people."

The West Belfast woman suffered abuse at the hands of a priest at a Sisters of Nazareth-run home in Londonderry.

It has left her with a legacy of ill health, and she said she felt ashamed going for a benefits interview.

She added: "I was nearly hysterical, I was just in a bad way."

Separately and unrelated to Ms Walmsley's case, the Department for Communities - which oversees delivery of benefits in Northern Ireland - has started a review of existing PIP claims awarded the highest level of support.

It was seeking to identify those individuals who should have their award changed to an ongoing award, with a light touch review in 10 years.

The administrative review exercise to look at all current PIP claims to check if customers are eligible for more support under PIP as a result of two upper tribunal judgments in Britain which changed the way PIP is assessed started on June 28 last year.

At the end of November, about 10,900 cases had been cleared.

A priest assaulted Ms Walmsley while she was a child. By the time she was 12, he was having sex with her, she told a public inquiry.

She has waived her right to anonymity and is part of the Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse lobby group.

Ms Walmsley said she had post-traumatic stress disorder, bulimia and a series of other health problems.

The inquiry led by retired judge Sir Anthony Hart recommended a care package be established for survivors.

Action on his recommendations was delayed by the collapse of powersharing.

Meanwhile, the Government has confirmed that the full roll-out of Universal Credit, which covers housing and child tax benefits, is to be delayed.

Sinn Fein Assembly member Alex Maskey said: "They need to start listening and stop ignoring the evidence on the ground that Universal Credit has been a disaster.

"Stalling it won't fix it. Delaying it won't bring people out of poverty. It needs to be scrapped altogether."

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