A redress scheme which would have catered to all 58,000 survivors of mother and baby homes would have cost €1.6 billion as civil servants warned the Government that more expansive schemes could “derail” attempts to give supports to those who needed them most.
While the Government did not opt for a scheme of this size, it did overrule the recommendations of a dedicated working group which said that only survivors who were resident for six months or longer in an institution should receive a financial payment.
This would have cost €673 million and covered 19,000 survivors. Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman opted instead to widen the scheme and make it available for women who spent any amount of time in an institution, with medical cards available if they stayed longer than six months, costing an estimated €800 million.
In its recommendations, the group said it recognised that “the Government may wish to extend eligibility beyond the groups recommended” but cautions that “any expansion has the potential to have significant cost implications, as well as risk creating legislative and equity difficulties that could ultimately derail attempts to provide supports to those who most require them”.
Opposition parties have called on the Government to “rethink” its plans and have criticised the fact that the scheme does not take into account the individual trauma suffered by survivors, as well as the fact it does not include children who were resident for less than six months including boarded-out children.
The report of the working group says it considered an alternative option which would involve a general payment and also a payment for severe abuse and trauma, based on individual assessment and evidence. After lengthy discussions, however, “real concerns” emerged.
“The inclusion of an additional tier such as this, while well intentioned in practice, could ultimately be unattainable for applicants with the risk that they may feel retraumatised by the process of application and simultaneously deeply upset if their experience did not warrant an award.”
This would mean the scheme would fail the key test of “do no harm”, the report says. The group estimated that about 4,800 children were boarded out from mother and baby homes.
The group said it did not develop proposals for this group because of the limited time available and because of the requirement for an “individualised approach” among other reasons.
Opposition parties and advocacy groups have also criticised the fact that the scheme excludes children who spent less than six months in an institution. Data presented to the group shows that there are more than 24,000 children who spent less than six months in a mother and baby institution.
The group said it was “strongly of the view that the six-month residency criteria is particularly important when considering children as it does not want to create a circumstance whereby being born in a mother and baby or county home institution is deemed a basis for redress under the scheme”.
The report also states that those who spent six months or more in an institution are “likely to have endured more negative impacts on their health and wellbeing than those who spent less time in one, particularly because the vast majority of those who did so were there when conditions were harsher”.