The Shame of Ireland
Thursday, November 15, 2018 - 07:14 PM
By Niall Murray
A State body's dealings with the institutional child abuse victims it was set up to provide support for is to be the subject of an Oireachtas committee request for an independent investigation.
Despite assurances from the Department of Education that problems experienced by clients of Caranua are mainly a thing of the past, TDs and senators said they continue to receive complaints from survivors about their experiences.
Caranua was set up to administer a €110m fund set aside to help provide housing, health, education and other assistance for people who received awards from the Residential Institutions Redress Board for abuse suffered as children.
It has paid €78m on supports to date for more than 5,000 people, but it closed for new applications in August as the amount of money it can spend is strictly limited by law.
Members of the Oireachtas Education Committee said today that they are dealing with regular issues around the treatment of survivors who have sought support from the organisation.
While it has yet to formalise findings from its deliberations on Caranua in a written report, chairwoman, Fiona O’Loughlin TD, said it is likely to recommend the commissioning of an independent investigation.
“People have been let down and they have been failed. There should be an independent investigation into the operation and management of Caranua, and that should be commissioned and carried out by the department,” she said.
Ned Costello, Department of Education assistant general secretary, said the question of any investigation would have to be a political decision.
But he assured members that the views of survivors about Caranua would be sought in an upcoming consultation with survivors on the State response to institutional abuse, and in a review of Caranua and other redress schemes which were under the department's oversight.
He was challenged by Senator Paul Gavan (SF) on his earlier evidence that Caranua has remedied the situation where it previously did not always provide applicants with information on their right to appeal a decision on support from the organisation.
While Mr Costello said such information has been provided as a matter of course since mid-2016, Mr Gavan said this is contradicted by a report last month from the officers who heard appeals in relation to Caranua decisions.
The report said that there continued to be complaints in 2017 that Caranua had not provided information on the appeal process in cases where it would not accept applications from people if they previously received support.
Mr Costello suggested these may have been legacy issues dating back to before the practice of informing people of appeal rights from 2016. He pointed to the clearance of a backlog of appeals in relation to Caranua decisions, down from 140 in train in 2017 to less than 50.
But independent senator Lynn Ruane suggested a reason that appeals are down is that people have given up on the process in frustration. She said herself and a social worker had to advocate for a man who is trying to get finance for white goods for his kitchen.
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