SURVIVORS OF ABUSE in residential institutions have said health needs, housing and social supports are of concern to them, according to a new report.
The facilitators of the report engaged with over 100 people and held over 30 meetings in Ireland and the UK over the course of the past six months leading up to its publication today.
Among the issues highlighted in the report are the increased health needs of an aging population, concerns about adequate and suitable housing, social supports to counteract social isolation and the need to make services easier to access.
Survivors concerns in Ireland, in order of priority, include:
- An aging profile and increased health needs
- Fear of institutionalisation in old age (hospitals, nursing homes etc.)
- Adequate and suitable housing
- Poverty – inadequate income
- Fear of isolation and the need for social supports
- Neglecting the needs of ‘hard to reach’ survivors
- The restrictions on obtaining counselling services
- Support in managing bureaucracy to access services
- The unequal treatment of survivors who didn’t receive redress and therefore couldn’t access services and funds through Caranua.
- Lack of educational support for survivors and for their children and grandchildren
- Lack of access to information and files on their own and their families’ histories
- Being seen as ‘helpless victims’ rather than ‘resilient people’ who survived despite the lack of adequate support
- Resettlement options for survivors who returned to or wish to return to Ireland
For both Irish and UK residents, health, end of life care, housing, social supports and finance are paramount, according to the report.
Survivors communicated a huge fear of being forced into an institution at the end of their life and visits to hospitals were described as traumatic.
They are asking for several measures to be implemented including home care packages that consider their circumstances, consultations about how to meet end of life needs and assurances that funeral expenses will be available.
Counselling has been noted as extremely important by both Irish and UK residents and fears were expressed that access to counselling has been reduced.
Both Irish and UK survivors have expressed strong needs for adequate housing. Many survivors who are resident in the UK live in poor-quality housing.
Survivors and advocates stress the importance of helping them achieve a high qualifying level for social housing.
Pension rights are important in both the UK and Ireland, according to the report.
Wishes for an enhanced pension entitlement that would not impact on welfare benefits and entitlements are important in the UK.
In Ireland, survivors wished to obtain a contributory pension to acknowledge the years spent working in Irish institutions without payment.
The report noted that 80% of survivors are aged over 58. Just over half of these are over the age of 70 and 7% are over the age of 80.
One survivor/advocate advised that a thorough assessment of survivors changing needs should be conducted without delay in both Ireland and the UK.
They suggested that those doing the assessments need to be trained in conducting them and be competent in communicating with survivors.
The researchers didn’t engage with survivors outside the UK and Ireland. However, they were told by other survivors that age-related health issues are experienced by survivors in both the US and Canada.
“These survivors would like a dedicated website which keeps them up to date on survivor issues. While this was available in the past, it had to close due to lack of funding,” the report noted.
Both survivors and advocates stated that many survivors in both the UK and Ireland often live relatively isolated lives. They do not trust people easily and value face-to-face contact and a building of trust over time, according to the report.
Therefore, the provision of drop-in centres that are friendly, hospitable and well-run is vital for the positive mental health of survivors, the report stated.
Survivors and advocates say that these centres can double up as a signpost to other services like health, housing and other benefits.
Survivor-led consultation group
Most survivors that the researchers heard from thought that a survivor-led consultation group which could engage with the government to get needs of survivors had a lot of merit.
They said that survivors knew the issues of concern to survivors best.
However, they were also sceptical of “what would come out of it, having been down that road before” and being disappointed by the cancellation and postponement of meetings led by various government departments, the report noted.
They stated that this type of process would benefit from an independent chair and/or an independent facilitator.
The report noted that it would be important that there would be a liaison and administrative support from the government. Those participating in this group would need to be resourced with their travel and subsistence costs, it stated.
Commenting on the report, Minister for Education Joe McHugh thanked the survivors who engaged with the independent report facilitators, Barbara Walshe and Catherine O’Connell.
“The report is clear and unambiguous in articulating the views of those consulted. The report talks about the importance of survivors’ voices being heard and I want to support that,” McHugh said.
As regards the next steps, the Minister said: “I want to acknowledge the clear call from survivors to move on from further widespread consulting about needs and to begin a process of engagement about how those needs can be met.
“The report proposes the establishment of a survivor-led group to assist in this. I would like to see this group established as soon as possible.”
The Minister is requesting the interdepartmental committee to establish early contact with the group.
“On foot of that engagement, I am anxious to see clear proposals for action which I can bring to my colleagues in government,” McHugh said.