The Government will today announce its compensation scheme for residents of mother and baby homes as well as an “action plan” on access to birth records and on projects to memorialise the experience of those who lived in the homes.
It is expected that the Cabinet will approve the proposals by Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman this morning before an announcement and press conference later today.
The compensation scheme will be wider than that recommended by the Commission of Inquiry into the homes, whose report was criticised by many survivors and their advocates. It is expected to cost more than €800 million in payments to the former residents.
The compensation scheme is expected to cover women who spent less than six months in the homes and also those who were resident in them after 1974 – the year the lone parents’ allowance was begun – a departure from the Commission’s report.
There are estimated to be some 50,000 women and children who were resident in the homes. All will be eligible for compensation, though at different thresholds, it is understood. Some former residents will also be eligible for medical cards.
There has been considerable wrangling in Government over the potential cost of the compensation scheme, with some officials citing the example of the redress scheme for the former residents of industrial schools - many of whom suffered horrendous abuse - which was expected to cost €200 million but ended up costing in excess of €1.5 billion.
Mr O’Gorman wrote to survivors and advocacy groups for former home residents last week, saying that he will seek approval from Government for a “detailed and costed” payment proposal.
The aim, he said, is to introduce a “non-adversarial and straightforward” application procedure.
Legislation to allow adopted people access to their birth records – which they currently do not enjoy by right – is also being prepared. The joint Oireachtas Committee on Children is currently completing the pre-legislative scrutiny phase, and will submit a report to the Minister in the coming weeks. It is hoped that the new law, enshrining the right of adopted people to access their original birth certificate and therefore the identity of their birth mother, will be on the statute books next year.
The Cabinet is also set to consider the final report of the Seafood Sector task force, and the State claims agency report on sensitive cases. A memo on the use of antigen testing is due to come from Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, which is expected to address the use of the tests in schools, as well as the issue of subsidizing the costs.
The Department of Transport will bring a report on its capital expenditure, while Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath will brief Cabinet on arrangements on the composition of the Top Level Appointments Committee - charged with making senior public service appointments.
There were also indications the Government may consider a retail banking review undertaken by the Department of Finance.