Ciara Reynolds of law firm BLM said, however, that the anticipated delays would not deter survivors from going ahead with claims.
“While the process is slightly different than anticipated, this will not put off survivors or solicitors acting on their behalf making applications,” said Ms Reynolds.
She said that planned training sessions for survivors and solicitors to familiarise them with the working of the scheme have had to be reconsidered.
“However, in place of this, an online process has been provided where concerns and queries can be raised, and where access to the online application procedure is held,” Ms Reynolds said.
The scheme covers anyone who was in a residential institution in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995. Those applying must have suffered or witnessed abuse in that home. It does not cover boarding schools.
The scheme will allow payments of between Stg £10,000 and Stg £100,000 depending on circumstances. An initial sum of around Stg £37.5 million has been set aside, but final pay-outs are expected to exceed Stg £100 million.
“Applicants applying for themselves or on behalf of a recently deceased family member can apply directly or do so via a solicitor,” said Ms Reynolds.
“And while applications can be made by an applicant personally, the NI Executive has advised that, if someone wishes to speak to a solicitor, they should do so over the telephone or use email in the present climate.”
The Historical Institutional Abuse Redress Board has set up a website, www.hiaredressni.uk, to provide guidance for applicants and solicitors.
It covers the application process, the costs and fees structure for lawyers, and a template for structuring claims.
For those applying through a solicitor, the Redress Board will pay all costs and expenses. Only solicitors acting on behalf of applicants can make an online application, but survivors applying on their own behalf can download an application form or request a hard copy.
Solicitors applying online must also complete a statement of experience template, which can be uploaded when applying through the online portal.
On Tuesday 31 March, the Northern Irish Redress scheme, proposed in recommendations by the Historical Abuse Inquiry to compensate victims of Historical Abuse, was opened.
While widely welcomed by those representing victims and survivors, the circumstances in which it has opened will mean it will run differently than anticipated in the short term, and it has been warned that payments may be slower than planned. Ciara Reynolds at BLM said that this should not deter survivors from moving ahead with claims.
The scheme follows on from the recommendations made by the Historic Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIAI) and was created by legislation rushed through parliament before the pre-Brexit proroguing.
The NI Executive will be looking to Westminster to assist with the substantial budget, and the present financial burden on government – both local and national – will mean that significant additional funds will need to be administered carefully.
“Credit must go to High Court Judge Adrian Colton (pictured) and his staff for getting the scheme up and running at this time with all of the difficulties created recently and, while the Executive has warned that getting payments out may be slower than they had hoped, applications can and should be made from now,” Ms Reynolds concluded.