The residential institutions redress scheme was introduced as part of the Government's response to residential child abuse. It was complemented by the establishment of the independent Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, the National Counselling Service, the Origins family tracing service and the Education Finance Board. In tandem with funding for support groups, these initiatives represented a comprehensive and compassionate response to the abuse suffered by so many victims while also allowing a comprehensive review of the causes, nature and extent of abuse.
The Ryan report set out a series of recommendations to address the effects on those who suffered and to prevent, where possible, and reduce the incidence of abuse of children in institutions and to protect children from such abuse. The Government published a detailed implementation plan in July 2009 to address the report's recommendations. This plan contains 99 specific actions and aims to strengthen significantly the existing child welfare and protection service. The first progress report on the implementation plan was published during the summer. A comprehensive agenda is being pursued and the recruitment of 200 extra social workers this year will help the HSE to deliver on its statutory responsibilities to children in care while HIQA will prioritise the inspection of child protection. The Government is committed to improving and enhancing our child protection systems.
The redress scheme was established in 2002 as an exceptional measure to address abuse in specified residential institutions and to quote the then Minister from the Second Stage debate on the redress legislation, "It is not, and was never intended to be, a panacea for every injustice committed on children". The issue of including the Bethany Home in the scheme was considered previously when it was decided not to include it.
Following the publication of the Ryan report in May 2009, there were a range of demands for the redress scheme to be extended to include specific institutions, including the Bethany Home, as well as specific categories of institutions. The Government considered these demands and in its statement of 15 April last indicated that it did not propose to revise the arrangements.
The redress board is now in the process of finalising the remaining applications before it and based on the total number of applications received, the final cost of the scheme will be of the order of €1.1 billion, while the overall final cost of the response to residential institutional abuse is estimated to reach €1.36 billion.
Recent media attention has focused on the certification of Bethany House as a place of detention by the Minister for Justice in 1945 under section 108 of the Children Act 1908. The Department of Justice and Law Reform has advised that it has not received any allegations of abuse from any female committed to Bethany Home pursuant to the Children Act 1908 and that it would be happy to deal with any such cases on an individual basis.