The Shame of Ireland
It will also spend almost €10,000 a year from the fund on parking spaces for its staff as part of an office move set to cost €270,000 per annum. More abuse funds were spent redecorating its existing office last year.
Caranua was set up to distribute money provided by religious orders to survivors of abuse at industrial schools. They can apply for help based on their health, housing or educational needs.
There is currently an eight-month delay between survivors applying to Caranua and receiving an assessment call, after which they must wait even longer before they find out if they will be granted any support.
The most recent figures available show that there were 471 people waiting for assessment at the end of March last year. Earlier this year The Times spoke to ten survivors who have had negative experiences in dealing with the agency. Some said that they had waited up to 18 months for cheques to be paid. Others complained of calls not being answered and emails not being replied to in a timely manner. They also accused staff of making hurtful remarks and said that they were afraid to report their grievances in case it led to their payments being cancelled.
Caranua previously admitted that it had used “expensive” agency staff in 2015, hiring 17 extra people on top of the 10 core staff already approved.
Documents given to the public accounts committee (PAC) last week revealed that the full bill for agency staff between 2014 and 2017 was €2,017,745. All of Caranua’s administrative costs are paid for by redress funds. The amount of staff it can hire is controlled by the Department of Education, which granted permission for the agency to hire ten people in 2014. Caranua now has 24 full-time staff, following a review last year.
A source close to the board of Caranua said that the monthly bill for the agency staff was so large that board members had thought it was the annual figure. “The amount we were spending on staff costs was absolutely eye-watering,” the source said.
In a submission to the PAC, Caranua said: “The use of agency staff, while a good stopgap, is problematic for a number of reasons. It is expensive; agency staff are, by definition, usually seeking full-time employment and when such becomes available they leave, leading to high turnover and loss of skill and expertise and a significant disruption to the relationships that we aim to build with our applicants.”
Several of the original ten staff had previously worked with the Education Finance Board, which offered financial assistance for training and education to former institution residents. It is understood that none of these staff members still work for Caranua.
The PAC sought clarification on claims that Caranua was spending money on a counselling service run by the Catholic Church. Towards Healing, which is funded exclusively through religious organisations and Catholic dioceses, has received €94,648 from Caranua’s fund between 2015 and 2016 under a “memorandum of understanding” for its services. Caranua said it informs survivors of the “background” of the counselling service.
Earlier this month The Times reported that Caranua was set to use €720,000 of redress funds earmarked for survivors of abuse on rent over a three-year period because of a failure to reach an alternative arrangement with the Department of Education.
Last year, the state agency spent an undisclosed amount of survivors’ money renovating its current accommodation, which it will move from shortly. Survivors are not usually permitted to visit Caranua’s offices and some had complained they had been turned away by security when they tried to access the building to find out why they had not been granted funding for medical or housing needs.
New documents given to the PAC reveal that board members demanded an explanation of the need to move offices last April but no business case was presented. Board members said that they had repeatedly asked Mary Higgins, the chief executive, to explain what the business case for the move was but she declined to do so. Caranua did not comment.
The full cost of the relocation will be more than €271,396 a year, including VAT, a service charge and €9,000 per year for staff parking.
Several members of the PAC had appealed to the government to intervene to stop large amounts of the redress fund being spent on rent.
A spokeswoman for the Office of Public Works said: “The OPW is moving Caranua and the National Educational Psychological Services to a new leased premises and Caranua [has] agreed to pay rent for its portion of the building.”
The comptroller and auditor-general, the state spending watchdog, had previously identified issues with financial control at Caranua.. Two per cent of applicants had been awarded one fifth of the total fund so far, according to evidence given by Caranua executives to the PAC last month. Two people received €100,000 or more; three people were given €90,000 or more; and another three were granted between €80,000 and €85,000.
In June Caranua imposed a €15,000 limit on payouts to guarantee the fund’s “sustainability”. It said that the new limit would apply to applications from June 1 last year, but that some applicants would be “offered” the option to choose to limit their application if it was submitted before June but they still had not received a response. This newspaper has seen evidence that Caranua was attempting to impose the limit retrospectively on unresolved applications received well before the deadline.
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Hi Elizabeth, it would be brilliant it any survivors could get to the Embassy and speak on our behalf of our total disgust with Caranua and it CEO, board and staff and the dreadful treatment of survivors
Not Seen It Listed As An Event At The Embassy (July 2017)
Embassy of Ireland
17 Grosvenor Place
London SW1X 7HR
Phone: +44 20 72352171
Thank you for that info Jack there is now a date for this meeting it is 6th July 2017 no time as yet. It would be really great if a few of us survivors could attend although was told it would only be the groups leaders this is not right we should be able to voice our complaints and whatever else we have to say, such as asking for the ceo's resignation immediately. This woman is not the right person for the job she has no compassion nor has she a conscionse (incorrect spelling) So here's hoping a good few of us can attend will post a time when I know one. thank you.
The Board of Caranua will be composed of the following members:
Mr David O’Callaghan - Chairperson
Ordinary Members (former residents of institutions)
Mrs Frances Harrington
Mr Thomas Cronin
Mr Francis W. Treanor BL
Dr Mary T. Lodato
Other Ordinary Members
Mr Damian Casey
Mr Thomas Daly
Ms Patricia Carey
Ms Katherine Finn
Mr David O’Callaghan, Mrs Frances Harrington, Ms Katherine Finn, Mr Damian Casey and Mr Thomas Daly have been re-appointed to the Board, all having served one term, or part thereof, on the previous Board.
The Minister welcomed the appointments and wished all members well in the in their important and challenging role.