The secretary of state has written to NI party leaders to get answers to “fundamental questions” on redress for historical abuse victims.
Six party leaders had called on Karen Bradley to legislate to compensate victims. “without further delay”.
Mrs Bradley has said she is prepared to consider legislation “to deliver the right resolution for the victims”.
Victims group Savia has threatened to protest at her Hillsborough garden party if a decision is not taken.
BBC News NI understands that the key question she has raised with party leaders is whether they can agree on the level of payment being increased from the basic £7,500 – as recommended by inquiry judge Sir Anthony Hart in his report – to £10,000.
“The secretary of state has (asked party leaders) to work with her to answer fundamental questions that David Sterling has identified as remaining following the Hart Report and subsequent consultation,” Mrs Bradley’s spokesperson said.
“She is then prepared to consider legislation at Westminster if that is the best and quickest way to deliver the right resolution for the victims and survivors.”
‘Suitable legal and financial’
It is expected that the parties should come back with their answers by the end of this month.
Compensation was recommended in 2017 after an inquiry into the abuse.
But the power-sharing Northern Ireland Executive at Stormont collapsed just days after the inquiry report was published, stalling the plans for compensation.
The party leaders said they agreed with Mr Sterling, who asked her to take control of the issue.
A letter sent to Mrs Bradley on Thursday was signed by the leaders of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Sinn Féin, the Ulster Unionists, the SDLP, the Alliance Party and the Green Party.
In it, they told her that she should put “suitable legal and financial” arrangements in place to address “the needs of victims”.
In a letter from Mrs Bradley to victims’ groups, sent earlier this week and seen by BBC News NI, the secretary of state suggested that putting HIA payments as an item in the Stormont talks was the “quickest possible way to bring this issue to a resolution”.
That suggestion has caused anger among victims’ groups.
The letter came a day after Stormont’s Executive Office published responses to a public consultation on HIA redress.
The consultation received 562 responses – the Executive Office said it has completed its analysis of them.
Mrs Bradley also said that it was “vital” that progress is made by the end of May so that “draft legislation can be finalised”.
The HIA Inquiry was set up by Stormont leaders to investigate allegations of abuse in children’s residential homes run by religious, charitable and state organisations.
Its remit covered a 73-year period from the foundation of Northern Ireland in 1922 through to 1995.
The inquiry made a number of recommendations, including compensation, a memorial and a public apology to abuse survivors.
Since the inquiry ended two years ago, 30 survivors of historical institutional abuse have died.
Mrs Bradley said she will meet the HIA Inquiry chair Sir Anthony Hart in the coming days, as well as a number of victims’ and survivors’ groups next week.
The human rights organisation Amnesty International has described the latest development as a “shameful betrayal of abuse victims, who have been let down time after time”.