Posted on June 14, 2012 12:20 PM   |   Permanent Link   

The Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill provides for the establishment of a Statutory Fund to support the needs of survivors of residential institutional child abuse. 15,000 former residents are expected to be eligible to apply for support from the Fund and every effort is being made to minimise the administration involved. Some former residents advocate a simple distribution of the available money.

Following the publication of the Ryan Report in May 2009, the congregations who managed the residential institutions and who were party to the 2002 Indemnity Agreement were called upon to provide further substantial contributions by way of reparation. The Government agreed to proceed with this legislation to establish a Residential Institutions Statutory Fund, to support the victims of residential institutional abuse, as endorsed by Dáil Éireann. The legislation has been prepared following a public consultation process, which included consultations with groups representing survivors of residential institutional child abuse, the religious congregations and other interested parties.

Those who received an award from the Redress Board or an award or settlement in court proceedings and who would otherwise have received an award from the Redress Board will be eligible to apply for assistance from the Fund. It is likely that in the region of 15,000 former residents will successfully complete the redress process. In response to applications from eligible former residents, the Fund can make arrangements for the provision of approved services and may pay grants to assist former residents to avail of approved services.

The Education Finance Board (EFB), which was established on a statutory basis in 2006 and is funded via the €12.7 million contribution provided by the religious congregations under the 2002 Indemnity Agreement specifically earmarked for educational support for former residents and their families, has almost completed the performance of its functions. The EFB will be dissolved and its staff will transfer to the Statutory Fund, which will assume its functions in relation to the remaining moneys available to it.

However, Minister Quinn believes - and I agree with him - that the Fund should target resources at services to support former residents' needs, such as counselling, psychological support services and mental health services, health and personal social services, educational services and housing services. The former residents need help, not money and the Fund exists, in my view, for the purpose of helping.

The setting up of the Fund follows extensive consultations with survivors of residential abuse and a public consultation process. The fund will consist of seven individuals operating it and will be overseen by a chief executive answerable to the Public Accounts Committee and will fall within the scope of the Ombudsman and Freedom of Information legislation.

As responsibility for information for survivors will also be taken on by the Fund, funding of survivor groups by the Department of Education will cease. It is important that this transfer of responsibilities is handled in the correct way, with no chance of mistakes or of elements of these responsibilities falling through the cracks during the transfer.

The fund will have the power to hold and dispose of land or an interest in land, and may acquire, hold and dispose of any other property. Two of its members will be former residents of institutions, which is a move that I welcome. The insight and experiences of those abused in the institutions is essential.

While the Residential Institutions Redress Board provides financial compensation to those who suffered abuse while resident in the institutions, the new Statutory Fund will focus on meeting specified needs that many survivors have as they struggle with the effects of abuse that may have taken place many years ago.

The Fund will be financed from the cash contributions, of up to €110 million, offered by the religious congregations. To date, contributions of around €20 million have been received from the congregations towards the Fund. These and the remaining contributions to be received will be invested in an investment account to be established by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA). The Fund will take over the functions of the Education Finance Board for abuse survivors, which will be dissolved.

I believe that the costs of the response to residential abuse should be shared on a 50:50 basis, between the taxpayer and those responsible for managing the institutions where horrendous child abuse took place."
I understand that efforts are continuing to pursue the 50:50 division with the management bodies involved and the transfer of school infrastructure to the State for the benefit of the taxpayer has been proposed as a mechanism to allow those involved the opportunity to shoulder their share of the costs.

It is my hope that this new Fund will provide ongoing support to those who suffered as children in residential care in State supervised institutions. We have let these people down in the past and we cannot be allowed to fail them again. I want to see this legislation passed, and then I want to see in operation, as soon as possible.