Support body to be in place by end of year

 

VICTIMS:A STATE agency that will provide compensation as well as support services to victims of abuse will be up and running by January, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said yesterday.

It is hoped legislation to set up the statutory fund to provide support for people abused as children in residential institutions will be enacted in the autumn, said Mr Quinn.

Speaking to victim support groups, representing people who had been in residential institutions as children, he also said the Government had decided to enact legislation to close the redress board and that the memorial to abuse victims, recommended in the Ryan report, “is to advance to competition stage”.

Set up in 2002, the Residential Institutions Redress Board, offered compensation to abused former residents of 139 industrial and reformatory schools, orphanages and children’s homes linked to the State. Since its establishment it has received 15,173 applications and has finalised 14,645 cases, of which 925 were either refused, withdrawn or resulted in no award.

Mr Quinn met the victim support groups at the Department of Education. He told them the statutory fund would focus “solely on former victims of abuse” with eligibility “confined to those who received an award from the redress board”. It would provide services or commission public agencies to do do. These would include counselling, psychological support and mental health services, educational and housing services and others as required. Funding for victims’ groups, provided by the department, for the provision of information and referral services would cease and it would be open to the fund to consider financing services to abuse victims including those provided by the support groups.

To ease access, the redress board will supply details it has of award recipients. A total of €110 million will be available to the fund with €20.05 million paid over by the congregations to date. He told the groups he would work with them so all could say “that we have made a tangible difference to the lives of a great number of survivors.”

Speaking afterwards John Kelly of Soca Ireland said the Minister had been “very supportive and listened very attentively”. Every group “expressed heartfelt feelings at how the new Government behaved” where the abuse issue was concerned, he said.

Michael O’Brien of the Right to Peace group said it was “brilliant now to see a Government prepared to work with survivors and help with their needs”. He praised the Taoiseach for his Wednesday address and the Tánaiste for calling in the papal nuncio. The church, he said “has not produced one penny where survivors are concerned”. He is seeking to meet Cardinal Brady to discuss this.

Tom Cronin of Irish Survivors International was “optimistic, cautiously optimistic” after the meeting, while Paddy Doyle felt the Minister was “a very good people person” and “determined to get things moving.”

Mick Waters of Soca UK had “great confidence . . . this Minister and Government will do whatever they can”.