Residential Institutions Statutory Fund (Amendment) Bill 2016: Second Stage [Private Members]

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

It is quite poignant that we are moving this legislation on the afternoon when we discussed the victims' rights Bill and the transcribing of that legislation into Irish law. We are talking about victims, people who underwent traumatic, violent, sexual and mental abuse inside our State institutions. The experience of that abuse contributed in many cases to lifelong damage to the mental health and general well-being of the survivors, some of whom are in the Visitors Gallery tonight. As a consequence of the terrible wrong done to them, the religious congregations who ran the institutions were directed to give €110 million to a fund for survivors, meaning they get off very lightly considering the damage that was done. To expect those victims to go cap in hand and beg to access that money, which in no way compensated for the damage that was done to them but was supposed to alleviate the problems arising from what they experienced, is simply not good enough.

This Bill is before the House because of the experiences survivors of the abuse have had in the course of the application process, as well as the limitations of the schemes. When this fund was brought into place many of us, and many survivor groups, expressed deep concern about the way it was set up and about the board and we felt it was not an efficient way to meet the needs of survivors. Instead of being survivor-focused and survivor-led, it became a process in which there were bureaucratic blocks on people trying to access services. Unfortunately, the process made already traumatised people feel they were begging or being judged for something to which they were entitled. We were told to give the Bill the benefit of the doubt and urged to see how it operated. A review was to be built into it and if it was not going well the problems could always be dealt with at that point but the review was never initiated. For two years we asked the Minister's predecessors, Ruairí Quinn and Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, for its terms of reference and were told they would be available soon, but strangely enough, in the week this Bill was selected, the terms of reference were finally published on the Department's website. Having read them, I wonder what the Department was waiting for because they do not display monumental amounts of work or effort and the only conclusion is that the Department has not got a clue about what is going on with survivors at the moment. The terms of reference mention consulting stakeholders and looking at eligibility criteria but none of the survivor groups, or the residents, has any confidence in the review. They do not address many of the concerns that were raised, or the ones I raised with the Minister towards the end of last year. Nor do they address the concerns of the Caranua appeals officer, who has had direct experience of how the scheme is being run.

Fianna Fáil's amendment suggests that we put this off again for another eight months but this is insulting to the applicants who have already been left hanging by Caranua. The opinion of the survivors has already been sought and the work already done, not just in the work that has been put into this Bill, which was produced with the input of survivors, but by people such as Fiona Fox, who has worked with many survivors and commissioned detailed reports. She has done excellent work with Senator Lynn Ruane for presentations to the education committee on the functioning of Caranua and she will also be appearing before the Committee of Public Accounts. Above all, in 2015 the appeals officer gave his adjudication on the administration of the fund.

The answers to the question of how to help survivors are already there. The adjudicator reported a 110% increase in the number of appeals and said that many appellants had raised issues about the manner in which their applications had been processed by Caranua. He highlighted the fact that the booklet and application form raised expectations about what people could apply for, which were not matched by the experience of people who made an application. He said many people complained about frustratingly long delays in getting a written answer from Caranua and refusing applications, which meant people could not launch an appeal, and that others went through lengthy procedures which required them to get several quotations for home improvements etc., only to be told several months later that their application did not meet the necessary criteria. Why put them through all that? His report highlighted what we need to do and, in effect, he did the review for us. His concerns reflected survivors' experiences, which reflect what I put into the Bill. The time it takes to process applications and to forward decision letters, the lack of clarity in the guidelines, the decision to prioritise first-time applicants and the lengthy procedures causing further delays are absolutely insulting. I also highlighted the difficulty people have had in accessing or engaging with Caranua advisers on the need to expand the range of services. I am sure the Minister will tell us we do not need this legislation as we have to wait for the review but the review, and Fianna Fáil's amendment, do not take into account any of those things. All they do is serve to kick the can down the road and drag out further the genuine concerns of the survivor groups.

What is needed is a simple scheme that is clear, quick, easy to access and easy to use. It needs limited bureaucracy as many victims have a poor education because of their abuse and find bureaucracy daunting and difficult to negotiate. The lack of respect and dignity which has been shown to them has revictimised and retraumatised many of them but the problem with Caranua was there from the start. The provisions to help victims had been put into categories of health, education, housing and training and people were asked to queue up to access these services.

It has been a demeaning experience for many of them. The testimony is there and it is heartbreaking to read when one considers what has already been done to these people. Most of the groups will say that there was no meaningful consultation with them about the devising of those categories. They fall well short of the needs of the victims. We have to look at the issue of the age profile. People in their 60s or 70s do not need education and training. The distribution of the funds reflects this. Many have sought assistance in housing, particularly to deal with mortgage and rent problems. What is the point in giving people a cooker if they cannot afford to put a roof over their heads and meet payments? We cannot have a one fit for all solution. We have to take into account people's different experiences.

Many survivors would make the point that the traumatic experiences that they underwent had a knock-on effect on their own children. They were not able to provide as best they could for their own children. They are right to have their own children included. These children were not unaffected by the abuse that happened to their parents. It should be up to the victims to decide what the best supports that they need are. Many of these people want to contribute to assisting their children and feel that would be a more beneficial use of funds.

We have to reiterate, loud and clear, that Caranua is not a charity. It is one of a series of State initiatives designed to acknowledge and compensate for the harm done to people who experienced abuse as children in educational institutions and facilities in this State. This fund is owed to these people. It is their fund. The customer charter talks about treating people courteously and giving clear information, feedback and so on but that has not been people's experience. Caranua calls them "customers". They are not customers. A customer is somebody who buys a good or service from a shop or a business. These are people who were illegally incarcerated by the State and were victimised and abused during that incarceration, such that the Taoiseach had to apologise to them. They represent and are the victims of systemic failure of the State. They need to be heard in this situation. The general approach adopted by the State to victims is reprehensible. We saw it in the Harding Clark report on symphysiotomy. We see it in what is going on in the courts, with victims of the Magdalen laundries being pursued, the women who had their children forcibly removed from them and so on. It is reprehensible. This type of approach will come back to haunt us and it is the type of approach that is here before us in the administration of the scheme as it now stands.

Our Bill is simple, straightforward, based on the experience of the people who need to access that fund and it has done the job of the Minister's review for him. It essentially comprises six amendments to the 2012 legislation. They are all practical and all based on victim and survivor experiences. They reflect and address the concerns that those people have.

The first is an amendment to section 3 of the 2012 Act, which seeks to address the question of eligibility. It seeks to widen eligibility to those who missed out previously. We know that the 2015 report of the appeals officer also recommends this change, when he said that the circumstances of such individuals can be equally as harrowing as those of applicants who were eligible. As I mentioned in my previous report, it is particularly harsh and unfair to deny, without exception, all persons who have not received awards the opportunity to benefit from this fund. That is an anomaly which must be addressed. People who did not previously get a settlement should be included if they were the victims of abuse in these institutions.

The second amendment is to section 8 of the 2012 Act, to broaden services to include costs associated with the funerals of a spouse, other services that would improve living conditions, to allow survivors to pay for education courses for their children and so on. The appeals officer recommends that the scheme be amended to provide for this. It also deletes the impediment to apply for funds to be put towards mortgage or rent. As I said, it is ridiculous to provide the funds to buy a cooker and not assistance to keep a roof over a person's head. Most appeals last year were in that area. I know there has been a certain relaxing for funerals, but it is not enough. There is no harm in including it here.

The third amendment is to section 9. It is to include a clause that takes into account the age of victims when considering applications. One of the problems here is the delays. Some people are experiencing deteriorating health. They are getting older. Their age needs to be a factor in a speedy processing of their application. This amendment also lifts the limits and the capping that have been put in place.

The fourth and fifth amendments to section 20 and section 22 are designed to speed up contact and replies to survivors when decisions have been made and when a decision on an appeal is made. Delays and poor communication have been a huge complaint from people. I have many examples. People are being dragged through the process at enormous length and being left in the dark about where their application is. Those delays have been consistently highlighted by the appeals officer in his annual report and they are a source of enormous stress. That is a ready amendment.

The last amendment is to remove the surplus of the fund which goes to the children's hospital. I have no problem with the children's hospital being funded. I have a huge problem with any surplus, which is money owed and belonging to survivors of this, being given to a project that should be funded by the taxpayer.

This is simple. I have no doubt that the Minister is going to tell me that the review is there and to wait for it. We were told that when we raised the concerns when this legislation was initially passed, almost five years ago. The review has been delayed. The work has been done by others. The needs of the people are obvious. They are the ones best placed to say what this scheme should be. It is insulting and demeaning to expect them to wait any longer, given their age and what they have been subjected to by this State, when we can move this legislation forward. It can provide immediate assistance to allow them to access their money for the abuse that they suffered at the hands of a negligent State which owes them an apology and a hell of a lot more than the paltry scheme before them.

I thank Deputy Clare Daly for tabling this Bill. To prepare myself for this debate, I went back to when this was debated in the Dáil in June 2009. It is a very sad indictment of both the State and society that led to the events described in the Ryan report that led to the establishment of this fund. It is worth recalling that the Dáil then acknowledged the pain and suffering endured by the former residents of institutions. The commission's report vindicated their claims of abuse and acknowledged that crimes were committed by members of the religious congregations and others against children placed in their care. It restated the sincere apology of the House to the victims of childhood abuse for the failure to intervene, detect their pain and come to their rescue. It acknowledged that the State has an obligation to ensure that children and young people in the care of the State receive the highest possible quality of care, and to provide services to protect them as much as possible from all forms of harm.

There was no doubt that the Ryan report and the lid it took off such appalling conduct in institutions was a real turning point for Irish history. It opened up the weaknesses of administration. The Department of Education and Skills is singled out within that report for some of its failures. There were huge failures with regard to its duty of care and its obligation to discharge its responsibilities. It did not have an effective inspection system. Even cases that were revealed were not properly pursued. There was resistance to the growing volume of criticism that arose. There was a failure to act on reviews that came to its attention.

The House has little comfort in this report either. The House rarely, if ever, had the plight of children in the industrial schools system brought to its attention, and even when it was it was about administrative issues rather than the core issues that were at the heart of this report.

There is no doubt that it was an important decision to establish Caranua, which was a trust to spend for the benefit of the 15,000 people who were sexually or physically abused, or who suffered various forms of psychological or other abuse, and received settlements and to put in place an independent board to devote that money to the needs of those people.

I am very conscious that Deputy Daly's Bill is brought forward with the very best of intentions. On the basis of the applications to date, where I think a little more than 4,000 cases have been dealt with and, at this stage, 55% of the money has already been expended, I would have to express a concern that there is an expectation that as others apply from within the group for which it was established, the full amount of the money will be expended on the basis of present trends.

There is a risk in doing as the Deputy is proposing at the core of her Bill, which is to extend substantially the group for whom this money would be used. I have sought information from my Department as to what the potential extent of going beyond those who received redress on account of abuse would be. My Department is not able to tell me the scale of that. Many thousands of additional people would become eligible to apply to the scheme. There is a real concern that this might create real problems in honouring the commitments made to those for whom this scheme was established and who are likely to utilise the full amount of the scheme. Essentially this scheme was established by the Oireachtas for their support. That is why it is important we have a review that establishes the extent to which the resources in the fund will be fully met by those who have applied, or are likely to apply, under the terms of the scheme. That is only fair in the context of the basis on which this was established, which was for very well-established cases of those who brought stories of abuse, who were heard by the redress board, whose case was established and who received a settlement. This fund is now there to meet their specific needs.

I have met some of the survivors myself and I am very conscious of the concerns they have about the administration of the fund. There is no doubt that people have experienced a lot of problems. The best efforts of Caranua to ensure the fund is administered in a fair way have caused problems for people. There is no doubt about that and I heard those cases at first hand. Some of those were perhaps misunderstandings and some were due to changes in the coverage that were not properly communicated.

As the Deputy points out, at a certain stage the board introduced limits because of its concern that there would be equity of treatment for those who had already applied and those who had not yet applied. Those limits were introduced in an effort to ensure moneys would be deployed fairly, but as the Deputy has said, that has caused problems and difficulties. It is appropriate that this review would look into the nature of those difficulties and whether better rules can be developed to ensure the money is allocated in a way that is easy to understand and to apply.

There are a number of elements in the proposals that the Deputy has put forward. Many of those can certainly be considered in the context of the review including the possible extension towards funeral costs of spouses of former residents and the possible extension to educational services of children of former residents. There will, however, be a need to establish the scale of the funds and whether it is able to meet the likely demands upon it. That is an important element of the review. The review could not have taken place until there was a reasonable level of participation already recorded in the scheme. As I said, more than 55% of the money has already been disbursed at this stage to just over 4,000 of those who are eligible to apply. There is a potential base of substantially more than that who have yet to apply. I understand there are more than 1,000 applications already on hand that have yet to be dealt with and there is an expectation that there are many more potential applicants remaining. That work will be ongoing.

The Deputy makes an interesting point as to whether the issue of the age of former residents should be brought into account. I think there is a reasonable case to examine that.

The objective of the time limit on decisions is reasonable but whether they can be completed within the 28 days in practice is unclear considering the need to process decisions and the information that needs to be collected. There is certainly an endeavour, which will be reinforced by the review, to improve the speed with which decisions are made. I know there have been frustrations with the length of time it has taken to deal with the various applications.

The Deputy has raised an issue about the present provision whereby sums in excess of the maximum amount would go to the children's hospital. It is not sums that would be left within the €110 million. There is no provision for moneys within the €110 million to be deployed for any purpose other than the support of applicable residents. That amount has been ring-fenced. I understand at this stage about €90 million has been fully subscribed and is available, but the provision in the Bill is not that money left over from the €110 million would be applied elsewhere. The provision is that, in the event of there being money over and above that amount, it would be deployed. The €110 million which was the commitment in the Bill, when it is reached, will be available for that purpose. It would take new legislation in the Dáil if any other purpose were to be found to deploy that money. The expectation within my Department is that those moneys will be fully committed to supporting those who are already eligible, that is the 15,000 for whom it was originally established.

The terms of reference for the review was the other issue. They have now been published. There is an opportunity for submissions to be made not later than 8 March, which is just next week. On foot of that we will proceed with the review. It is reasonable that we would revisit the legislation the Deputy has put forward after that review is completed. I would not like to consider extending to new applicants if, as the officials within my Department indicate, the money is likely to be fully exhausted for those who are eligible. If there was a very substantial expansion in the number of applicants it would be very difficult to proceed with the present regime. If we found that the money would not meet the needs of the new extended list of applicants, it would slow down the disbursement. There would have to be some assessment of the likely needs of those new applicants to ensure the money would be fairly expended on all those who are eligible.

It is correct to have a detailed assessment of the extent to which the existing expenditure will be devoted to those who are already eligible.

I understand that people are extremely hurt by their experience and who feel that is continuing. I know it can be difficult at times as a result of the procedures within any institution regarding assessing applications and seeking the information that is required under the administrative procedures of any public body in order to ensure that money is devoted to the purpose for which it is intended. I understand that there is a real problem with the requirement for accountability that the expenditure of public money creates in the context of people who want a quick response to their needs. In the course of this review, we need to find a way to meet those demands more sensitively and quickly, while ensuring that there is fairness in the way in which the money is used so that everyone who has a legitimate case to put forward for support under the fund and its various headings can receive that support.

I thank the Deputy for her Bill. I recognise the purpose for which it has been introduced. However, I ask that some time be given to complete the review so that we will be in a position to decide, on the basis of solid information, whether we can extend coverage to new individuals or purposes within the fund. I hope that we can achieve a quicker and easier approach to administering the fund that reduces the frustration many people have experienced in dealing with Caranua, despite the very best efforts of those working within it who have tried to deal with individuals on an equitable basis.

I welcome Deputy Clare Daly's Bill, which is a simple and common-sense measure that clarifies the law in line with the recommendations made in reports and that will bring some relief to people who are fed up of having to deal with a cumbersome and bureaucratic entity that seems more interested in satisfying checklists than providing genuine care and assistance under is its mandate. The appeals officer report for 2015 makes it very clear that a combination of a lack of clarity in the legislation - and from Caranua - as regards precisely what supports are available to survivors and a certain level of inflexibility, bad communication and nonsensical waiting times for decisions coming from Caranua all mean that the emerging needs of many former residents are not being met.

The role of Caranua is to manage a scheme of support for eligible survivors that addresses their current needs and improves their well-being. Instead, we have numerous reports of survivors being misled or not informed by Caranua as to the supports to which they are entitled. People have been asked to get multiple quotations for work, along with professional evidence of their medical clinic conditions and living circumstances, only to be told that they were wasting their time. They then have to wait, sometimes for months on end, for an official decision so that they can then proceed with an appeal.

While around 5,000 applicants have had success in receiving assistance, the experience of many in the community is that the real function of Caranua is to act as an impediment in their path to avail of the assistance they were promised. The decisions of Caranua are often inconsistent and, as the appeals board has stated, sometimes illogical. In addition, there is the issue highlighted by the appeals officer, namely, the ineligibility of survivors who were not previously in receipt of a settlement to access the fund.

The appeals officer said that the circumstances of such individuals can be equally as harrowing as those of applicants who are eligible and, as he mentioned in his annual report for 2014, it can seem particularly harsh and unfair to deny, without exception, all persons who have not received awards the opportunity to benefit from the fund. Some stated in the course of their appeals that fellow survivors who had benefitted from the redress board can go on to secure further assistance by applying to Caranua, when they were denied assistance not just once but twice because of their particular circumstances. Deputy Clare Daly's Bill will address the illogical and unnecessarily punitive shortcomings of existing legislation.

The Bill also addresses the situation whereby applicants are left waiting, sometimes for months, for decisions and for notices of such decisions. Most importantly, the Bill provides for clarification of the purposes for which applicants can use the funds. This is critical because the literature builds up expectations about what is possible, which ultimately results in wasted time and stress for everyone involved.

The measures in the Bill are reasonable and based on the findings of the appeals officer reports. Many in the community of survivors would like to go much further and do away with Caranua entirely. These calls have been made publicly. Their dignity has been affronted by Caranua and emotional distress has been inflicted upon them by the manner in which the fund is being applied. They have called for Caranua to be dissolved and its functions taken over by a Department.

Deputy Clare Daly's Bill does not go anywhere as far as that. Rather, it provides for a number of reasonable changes to the current legislation that will mean that the work of Caranua should run more smoothly, that the fund would be used for things that are closer to the real-world practical needs of those it was set up to benefit and that much of the lost time and stress could be avoided in future. If the State is going to set up a bureaucratic entity to administer an expenses fund that is part of the redress for previous harm caused by it, is it too much to ask that it does not emulate the box-ticking maze of unclear terms and conditions, waiting times and general grinding alienation that is the hallmark of the neo-liberal mode of managerialism that successive Governments have used to destroy the notion of public services, be it social housing, education, social welfare and health services? I do not know whether the Minister has seen Ken Loach's film "I, Daniel Blake", but it is worth watching because it is a very good example of the problems bureaucracy can cause for people who are trying to access something to which they might be entitled.

Public services are supposed to be centres providing welfare, good education, health and elder care based on human need and governed by human rights. They are now often service-delivery operations with productivity targets. What can be counted and ticked off in a box is what matters. The appeals officers' reports describe a situation where there is routinely a severe lack of communication and joined-up thinking, and repeated instances of a failure by those working in Caranua to consider the needs of applicants in a holistic and caring manner.

These people suffered horrifically from the tyranny of church and State when they were at their most vulnerable. Children are the most vulnerable people in the world because they are completely dependent on their carers and minders. Now, many are in their old age, the second most vulnerable stage of life, and are only looking for what is theirs and what is owed to them by the church and State, but must deal with the tyranny of numbers.

We have a terrible history in the context of care in this country, particularly mental health care. For two centuries, we had barbaric conditions in psychiatric hospitals. It was a major business. More admissions to mental institutions meant more profit. There is a correlation with what is happening in America today, where prisons have been privatised and over 2.5 million people have been incarcerated. People running prisons are campaigning for governments to incarcerate more people in order that they can make more money. It makes for a very sad situation.

In the past, all that was needed to commit someone was a priest and the word of a male family member. In the 1950s, 20,000 people were labelled as mentally ill and were locked behind bars. Thankfully, this level of coercive detention has seen a dramatic decline in the past 30 years and we have closed almost all such institutions. It is unfortunate that 70% of those in prison face mental illness challenges. One would wonder whether we are using prisons to manage people rather than actually dealing with their problems.

Today we do not have as many cell walls to restrain people but we have a mental health system that believes biochemistry is the defining factor in mental health issues. General practitioners, GPs, and psychiatrists prescribe powerful medications to people after asking them a series of questions on a checklist. They box tick and the person gets put in a box. These questions are about how the person is feeling and what his or her body is doing. There is no question about what is going on in the person's life or about his or her social situation or past. A checklist is met and a biochemical illness is diagnosed. The pharmaceutical industry says it has the answer and we must take its word as its trials are all done in-house now, with much secrecy surrounding the results. In Ireland, 250,000 people are on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, that is, powerful painkillers for the brain. Who needs cell walls when we have outsourced the asylum to people's minds in their own homes?

When a child or adolescent in south Wexford reports to the mental health services with an emergency situation, he or she will not be seen by anyone or receive any treatment if the child psychologist is not available. The child psychologist could be on holidays or the child might have presented out of hours. In those circumstances, no care of any kind can be given to the child until the boxes are ticked, no matter how well qualified the other people are. Sometimes these children are sent home and other times they are detained on a ward in the general hospital. When they do get assessed and are adjudged to have a mental illness, they get a drug prescription. Sometimes, if one of the ten acute care beds that are designated for children and adolescents in the south of Ireland is free, the child will be driven to Cork, which is the nearest place with such a bed for those living in Wexford. If they are judged not to have a mental illness, they are told they need psychology services, where there is a two-year waiting list. Quite plainly, the health service has no interest in talking to children and trying to help them feel they belong to this world. Instead we label them and load them up with drugs or put them on endless waiting lists when they cry for help.

Children are dependent and vulnerable. In years to come, when we look back at this current period, the biggest indictment of our time will be how we are failing the rights of children in terms of housing, basic needs, health care and mental health care. Supports are being ripped away by a succession of neo-liberal Governments and the services that exist are run by managers who barely know what care means. Care and love cannot be measured but their performance targets can be. In the age of precarious work, their heads are always on the chopping block so they have to conform.

I welcome those in the Visitors Gallery who are intently involved and affected by this Bill, which I support fully and commend. I wish to make some general points about the history that has led us to this point. The reason we are here is that the Irish State since its foundation outsourced to the Catholic Church the care and education of all people and directly turned its back on the neglect and sexual, physical and emotional abuse that was taking place in these institutions. In 2009, we had the original Ryan report, which was a limited report. That the rule that there would be no prosecutions was written into the Ryan report in 2009 is an absolute outrage. It is bad enough that there has been no criminal investigation of those who ran these institutions and inflicted such cruelty and abuse on, in this case, thousands of children but in my opinion a further crime was committed when the redress scheme was set up. The redress scheme itself was an outrage.

The Minister stated that 15,000 people were anticipated to receive redress under the Caranua scheme and €110 million was committed by the institutions. On my calculations, breaking it down, this means that the Catholic Church was to pay €7,333 for each of those 15,000 people. That is an absolute outrage. People's lives were impaired. We all know and have met people whose lives and whose children's lives have been impacted by what happened. Then we discover from a recent article that not only has the Catholic Church not paid the €110 million in full after so many years but it also has not turned over the promised 61 properties, as only 48 properties have been given over to the State. These properties would be very useful during our housing crisis. They could earn money meaning people could possibly be compensated in the way that they deserve. Will the Minister comment on that observation because he did not say much in his introduction?

I looked at Caranua's website, which states that it wants to make a real difference to the lives of survivors of institutional abuse and it lists health, housing and educational needs. The whole thing is patronising and disgraceful. What business is it of ours or the Government's how people who were abused and get compensation spend their money? If they want to go to Las Vegas and blow it all on a night out, that is their business. It is none of our business. That we would tell people what to spend their money on and ask them for receipts is unbelievable. Will the Minister explain why the State considered this approach fit? I know this involved the previous Fianna Fáil Government as well and does not just relate to the last Government. It involves Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. In essence, this involves the two big parties. Why was there any stipulation? If people are entitled to compensation, they are entitled to it. What they do with it after that is no concern of ours. The Minister in his introduction spoke of how the money is meant to be spent. People were damaged and abused. We should not be asking them how they will spend the money.

The Bill makes a serious attempt to correct the mistakes and limitations in the terms. It seeks to broaden the number of people who can receive payments, including payments for funeral expenses. It is quite incredible to discover that a person can only do up his or her house and cannot actually buy one and then that the survivor's age would be taken into account. On the timely processing of applications, many survivors of abuse are complaining about the length of time the process, including appeals, takes. The Bill also seeks to address the issue relating to survivors' children. It is incredible that the Government would set its face against this proposal. In reality, all compensation should be paid directly to anyone who was in an institution. However, they are emotionally and physically scarred and many of them have gone on to develop serious alcohol or addiction problems and some have not been able to work fully. It is obvious that this would have impacted on their children. It only makes sense that it would affect the next generation and they should be entitled to spend the compensation in any way they see fit.

The Government's approach to the women and men who were impacted by what happened in these institutions follows a pattern. Several years ago we all saw the Taoiseach shed a tear in this House for those in the Magdalen laundries and we were told those tears were genuine. When we consider the way those in the Visitors Gallery have had to go cap in hand for every single piece of compensation to which they are entitled by right, it seems the Taoiseach had crocodile tears for those who survived the Magdalen laundries. This also links in with the survivors of the mother and baby institutions and the survivors of symphysiotomy, who have been demonised and trivialised in the most recent report.

While the Minister has only recently been appointed to the Department of Education and Skills, I wish to mention a couple of the institutions involved. When one examines and scrolls down through the religious organisations that have been listed, one counts several hundred of them. I could not believe it.

The list reads like a who's who of the organisations that run Catholic schools. Just half a mile away from my house and next door to the school my daughter should be able to attend when she finishes primary school next year, the Le Chéile Trust has been appointed patron of Tyrrelstown secondary school. Incidentally, Tyrrelstown is the most ethnically diverse area in the country. In the first instance, why is Le Chéile, an amalgam of the religious congregations which abused people, allowed to continue to educate children and why has it been given control of secondary schools in the past three years?

In the past six months, in other words, under the Minister's watch, the Christian Brothers, one of the congregations whose members abused people, was given control of the secondary school in Castleknock. Why are these organisations being rewarded and allowed to educate children as if nothing happened? Most of the congregations have not made contributions to the redress scheme, yet they are being allowed to carry on regardless. Given the diversity of the areas concerned, it is clear that schools in these locations should be multi-denominational and non-denominational in nature. Nobody asked for a Catholic school. The congregations should not be allowed to continue to have a role in education given their failure to contribute to the redress scheme. I ask the Minister to respond.

I fully support the proposed scheme and the Minister should agree to implement it. It is incredible that the Fianna Fáil Party proposes to amend and water down the legislation given that it is responsible for the poor redress scheme that allowed the Catholic Church off the hook. I commend the Bill.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “That” and substitute the following:

“Dáil Éireann resolves that the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund (Amendment) Bill 2016 be deemed to be read a second time this day eight months, to allow for scrutiny between now and then by the Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills and for the Committee to consider and hold hearings that have regard in particular to ensure that the proposed Bill:

(a) takes account of recommendations of the Review of Eligibility for Caranua (Residential Institutions Statutory Fund) which is ongoing and is expected to be concluded in July 2017;

(b) does not give rise to any unintended consequences that create any adverse impact on the 15,000 former residents who qualify for support under the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme and the 4,000 former residents currently availing of approved services provided by Caranua; and

(c) identifies and corrects any potential legal issues arising from definitions of eligibility and approved services in the Bill.”.

I welcome those present in the Gallery and thank all those who contacted Deputies about Caranua. I also thank Deputy Clare Daly for presenting this good and important Bill.

Public representatives frequently get into arguments with State bodies and it is very easy to slag them off. However, they have a job to do, which is sometimes difficult and not always understood. For this reason, I am not one to slag off State bodies and while I have not slagged off Caranua, I have found it to be a strange organisation with which to interact. In my limited dealings with the organisation, I have found that, unlike many other public bodies, it does not give Members direct access. Even the Minister acknowledged the difficulties survivors face in dealing with Caranua. I am glad he has done so because it is rare for Ministers to acknowledge such difficulties. This is a significant development and if there is one positive element to emerge from the debate, it is the Minister's acknowledgement of these difficulties. I sincerely hope that Caranua staff, who I assume are good people, are listening to this debate and will work out not only how to provide a service and deal with service users, but also how to deal humanely with people who have been grievously wronged by the State.

It bears repeating that the circumstances that forced the former Taoiseach, Mr. Bertie Ahern, to issue an apology in 1999 were outrageous and barely believable. Unfortunately, the State adopted a bad element of the British system and grossly expanded it. In the 1940s and 1950s, foreign observers who would normally have been sympathetic to Ireland described this system as a national disgrace. The horrific circumstances that led to the former Taoiseach's apology informs this debate and clearly informed Deputy Clare Daly's Bill.

While virtually all aspects of the Bill are good, Fianna Fáil has a legitimate concern about expanding the number of people eligible for support under the redress scheme. It is worrying that the Minister and Deputy Clare Daly are unable to provide figures on the number of people who would be eligible to seek assistance from Caranua and its fixed and declining pot, as it were. This issue must be carefully examined. This can be done under the procedures of the House and the Bill will go for pre-legislative scrutiny, irrespective of whether my amendment is passed. The amendment proposes that such scrutiny will be undertaken by November at the latest. In truth, even without the amendment, I expect the Joint Committee on Education and Skills will need time to deal with the Bill. As Deputy Carol Nolan, a member of the committee, will agree, we are still dealing with legislation presented to the committee in July 2016 and we would like to complete that legislation.

It is worth giving the Bill careful consideration because if we expand the number eligible for assistance by an unknown quantity, it will have a negative impact on other people. We must think this through to ensure the definition is appropriate, as I assume it is. The number of people involved is unclear and must be studied carefully.

I like many of the other provisions. Deputy Clare Daly referred to the purposes for which grants or assistance can be provided and the Bill provides that age will be a ground for assessing applications. I agree with the sentiments the Deputy expressed on the purported aims of the legislation. The debate on Committee Stage will help to improve the Bill.

The requirement that all decisions be made within 28 days is not unreasonable, nor is it unreasonable to require in law that a State body process applications, which are generally relatively simple in scope, within a 28-day period. I look forward to working with Deputy Clare Daly when she appears before the committee. I undertake to do everything in my power on the committee to secure a slot for her Bill as soon as possible.

I assume Caranua is listening carefully this debate and the contributions of the Minister as well as of other Deputies who have essentially agreed with the Minister on the perception and reality of the service the organisation offers. I ask that it please change tack and consider a different approach to doing its work, as a State body, in the limited time available to it.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an mBille fíorthábhachtach seo agus gabhaim mo bhuíochas as ucht an deis chun labhairt faoi. I welcome everyone in the Gallery and commend Deputy Clare Daly on introducing this important Bill.

Sinn Féin has consistently highlighted the need for redress for all survivors of abuse in State institutions or by agents of the State. I commend in particular my colleagues, Deputies Mary Lou McDonald and Gerry Adams, on their tireless campaigning on behalf of the Magdalen women and survivors of symphysiotomy. The abuse of children while in the care of residential institutions is one of the darkest stains on the State's history. These survivors, many of whom are now elderly, were abused in the past and neglected for many years by the State before their suffering was acknowledged. The statutory fund established to provide for their needs is paltry in comparison with the damage and hurt inflicted on them.

There are serious concerns in respect of the limitations of the fund, both in terms of the services approved and eligibility for assistance under the scheme.

As we know, there was significant debate at the time of the establishment of the fund as to whether survivors of institutions not covered under the Residential Institutions Redress Board would be eligible for assistance under this fund. That debate should never have happened. These people have been damaged and hurt and we need to face up to that and to, at least, give them redress and the respect they deserve.

Bethany House and the Magdalen laundries were not covered under the fund but there was a promise in the legislation that consideration would be given to widening the scheme and for a review after two years. The Minister has announced a public consultation process in respect of this review and my party will certainly be making a submission to it. Nevertheless, it is unacceptable that this basic promise was not kept. It is the height of disrespect that this review has not yet taken place. It needs to be done. For survivors that have been so let down by the State, it is inexcusable and it does nothing to restore even a small bit of trust in the State or faith in the scheme. I believe that the scheme should be widened to include survivors of other State residential institutions and those who may not have previously sought a claim but satisfy the other criteria. I see no reason to exclude categories of survivors where there has been clear abuse and neglect.

In regard to the operation of the fund, I found the reports of the appeals officer very interesting. The latest report notes a 110% increase in the number of appeals received in respect of Caranua between 1 February 2015 and 31 January 2016. The number of appeals increased from 47 to 99. A significant proportion of the complaints relate to the manner in which the applications were processed by Caranua, including frustrations with the levels of bureaucracy and delays in getting a written decision from Caranua. Again, much of this frustration originates in the establishment of the scheme in the first place as many survivors felt that they were being put in a position of having to go before a board and beg for what is theirs by right. In one example, a woman was denied funding for bedding materials after a consultant orthopaedic surgeon recommended a particular type of bedding and mattress. She was denied that basic necessity. In another case, a man was refused travel expenses for a trip through which he hoped to conclusively establish his identity by means of DNA testing. While these appeals were upheld or referred back to Caranua for further consideration by the appeals officer, they clearly demonstrate the difficulties encountered by survivors in terms of this scheme.

Another issue that should be considered in terms of this scheme is the possibility of the establishment of an enhanced medical card for survivors of residential institutional abuse. As we know, many survivors are elderly and expenditure under the fund is significant. It would be appropriate, and it would give some degree of comfort to survivors to know that their medical needs were provided for into the future. This would, perhaps, continue past the lifetime of the residential institutions statutory fund and would be in the best long-term interests of this group of survivors. Arguably, it would also provide equity to this group of survivors and recognise the impact of childhood institutionalisation and abuse on them.

It is unfortunate that the survivors feel so let down by the operation of this fund and the fact that the promises made by the State to review it have not been kept. We must learn from the mistakes of the past. We must work to develop the appropriate means of supporting people who have been wronged by the State. These people have been wronged. We must acknowledge this wrong and put in place the right supports to help them in their lives. Unfortunately, there will be other scandals. The treatment of school sex abuse survivors by the current and previous Government has been shocking and the redress has been minimal. I look forward to working with colleagues, to hearing the views of survivors and, hopefully, to making this scheme simpler and more accessible to survivors. I am happy to support this Bill progressing to Committee Stage.

This is a strong Bill and Sinn Féin supports it. The fund was established for an important purpose. In many respects, it was the least the State could do in light of its responsibilities. Is dócha go raibh dualgas faoi leith ar an Stát aitheantas a thabhairt do na fir agus na mná sin agus don chruatan agus don fhulaingt a d'fhulaing siad; aitheantas a thabhairt do sin agus cúnamh a thabhairt do dhaoine agus iad ag éirí níos sine.

Before I speak to the specifics of the Bill I point out, as other contributors to this debate have done, that the State has a very poor legacy in terms of its record of care and child protection. We have seen evidence of this in the last week or so. The State initially absolved itself of responsibility for the care of vulnerable persons, including children, people with mental illness and other categories of people.

I want to use this opportunity to express my dismay at a statement on behalf of the Government which I recently came across. On 15 February, a representative from the Department of Justice and Equality stated to the committee, of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, in Geneva that the Taoiseach made an apology to the survivors of the Magdalen laundries and did so despite the fact that in the McAleese report there was no finding that the State had any liability. The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, repeated this on the Dáil record in the not too distant past. Paragraph 2 of the McAleese report states:

This Report has established that approximately 10,000 women are known to have entered a Magdalene Laundry from the foundation of the State in 1922 until the closure of the last Laundry in 1996. Of the cases, 26.5% were referrals made or facilitated by the state.

This means that, whether the State accepts legal liability or not, it was directly responsible for over 2,000 of those cases. In my view, the State is not telling the truth and it is also being quite insulting to those women. The Quirke report recommended establishing a dedicated unit, with the purpose of establishing a permanent memorial dedicated to the women and children of the Magdalen laundries. This was agreed four years ago but it is yet to happen. I ask the Minister, Deputy Bruton, to raise that issue and to ensure that does happen.

As we speak, the State is dragging two women through the courts over their exclusion from the redress scheme in regard to the Magdalen laundries, despite the fact that they endured forced labour, simply because they slept in another campus, namely, An Grianan. That is wrong. The State should withdraw its challenge to the case they are making rather than drag these women through further hardship. There have been many strong points made in regard to this Bill. The purpose of the fund is vitally important but there are many instances of maladministration and of people being refused vitally important services such as counselling and, as mentioned earlier, funding for appropriate bedding and so on. The scheme and the fund need to be improved. I hope the Minister will take on board the points made by the proposers of this Bill and the other Deputies who have contributed to this debate and that the fund and Caranua will be expanded. This is about recognition to some extent but there is also a responsibility on the State to ensure that the hardships suffered by the people who lived in these institutions is not repeated and that their later lives can be more comfortable and secure. The State has a responsibility to ensure that happens.

I thank all Deputies who contributed to this debate. The core issue that is causing concern, which I think is shared by Deputy Thomas Byrne of Fianna Fáil, is that if, as provided for in this Bill, we expand the scheme to people who did not apply to the redress board, we would be expanding it substantially to a new category of applicant. There is serious concern as to whether we can meet the needs of people who were designated to be eligible and for whom the legislation was introduced.

Deputy Coppinger raised a number of concerns as to why there should be any restriction on how this money is used and whether it should just be disbursed to those eligible without any restriction. It was decided by the Oireachtas in 2012 that there should be certain categories of recipient, with moneys allocated according to needs. The new scheme was to be different from the arrangement under the previous scheme in that it was designed to meet needs that arose and specified the different areas within which those needs would be categorised. That gave rise to a process of application and decision-making on how those applications were processed. There have been a substantial number of applications, running to several thousand each year. The latest figure I have is 13,000 applications to the board. While the number of appeals has doubled, it is 99 appeals against a total of 13,000 applications. The board worked with the appeals officer to respond to concerns raised and that work will continue.

I agree with the approach set out by Deputy Thomas Byrne. We need to have clarity on the scale of demand that would be imposed upon the fund by the various extensions proposed by Deputy Daly. The review we have initiated is timely in that respect and will clarify many of those points on a professional basis. We will then be in a position to decide whether there should be extensions, on what basis they should be given, whether moneys should, as the Deputy suggests, go to spouses and children for certain needs, or whether funding should go to a whole range of new people who did not apply under the original scheme.

I thank Deputy Daly for sponsoring the Bill. We must ensure we do the very best possible for the people affected by these issues. At the same time, under any fair system for dealing with applications according to criteria set down by this House, there must be an element of evaluation of each application. I realise that can give and is giving rise to concerns, but I am confident that through this debate, the ongoing review and the work with the appeals officer, continual improvement can occur. To be fair to Caranua, it did revise its rules in 2016 to respond to issues that had arisen and in an effort to improve procedures. That has to be a continuing feature of the activities of Caranua as it works with people who, as every Deputy recognises, have been extremely damaged through the neglect of the State and of institutions to whose care they were committed at a very vulnerable stage in their lives. We must do our very best to support them while also respecting the need to ensure, in accordance with the decision of this House in 2012, we respond to needs on the basis of the case presented to Caranua and which is evaluated in as fair a way as possible. I hope we can continue to improve the service to those who need it.

I am grateful we have had another opportunity in this House to acknowledge the pain and damage done to children in the care of the State and the church and the great wrong that was done to them. However, people have moved on from that in many ways. How we got here is a horrible part of our dark history which, sadly, is still playing out in many different aspects. What we are trying to do now is decide how we can remedy the wrong that was done. We cannot undo the damage that was caused to these people and which remains with them all through their lives, but we can help to make things a little better for them in the future.

One of the problems we face in doing so is that the system put in place to offer redress and allow people to access necessary supports has itself become an institution for re-traumatising and re-victimising people. If nothing else comes out of this debate, I ask the Minister to pay heed to the clear signal from every Member who spoke that this has to stop. What Caranua has been doing to people is unacceptable. For a publicly funded body to treat victims in this way is utterly appalling. That message must go out loud and clear.

In terms of the Bill itself, the Minister had only one objection and a bit of an excuse, neither of which stacks up. He dwelled, first, on his concern that if we enact the first provision in the Bill, to allow people who missed out on the original redress scheme to apply, we will be opening the floodgates. That does not make sense given the age profile of the groups involved and the numbers who did get redress, most of whom have not applied to this scheme. The notion that tens of thousands of others will present is absolutely not founded in reality. We are dealing with the small numbers of survivors who missed out on the original offer because they did not know about it or were out of the country. That said, if this is the Minister's only problem, let us take out that provision and allow the remaining proposals to proceed to Committee Stage. That particular provision is only one of six contained in the Bill. There is nothing to prevent us from implementing the other five provisions and thereby immediately serving to improve the situation of the persons involved. I hope the Minister will consider that proposal in advance of the vote on the Bill next week. Even setting aside my certainty that it would not lead to the problems the Minister has suggested, it is a little disingenuous to focus on only one part of the Bill. We could always deal with the provision he considers problematic at a later stage. I ask Fianna Fáil Members to consider taking the same approach as their objection is the same as the Minister's.

The other half-objection or excuse the Minister raised was that the review is under way and should be given time to conclude. He also claimed the review could not have been done any earlier because there would not have been enough data to go on. That is simply wrong, as Deputy Nolan clearly showed. In fact, the legislation included a provision for a review to be undertaken well before now. That review should, under the legislation, have been conducted years ago. Every time I raised this issue with the Minister's predecessors, the former Deputy Ruairí Quinn and Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, the answer was not that more data were required but that the review would be done later that year or in the coming months, or the Department was looking at bringing forward the terms of reference. We began to think these would be the terms of reference of the century, containing monumental provisions. Instead we have got a one-page document with an awful lot of blurb. It certainly was not worth waiting for. In terms of asking for time, I must be blunt and point out that time is something some of the people accessing the scheme do not have. We must move with urgency and I appeal to colleagues to take that on board.

It is notable that Caranua has been loudly criticised from every side of the House in the debate. I received an e-mail this week from a man named Keith in which he stated:

I have pleaded for help from them [Caranua] from the outset and they have given me no help to date. They ignored me to the point where I nearly took my life. All I want is the help they said they'd give me in the booklet that I received in February 2016. It said I'd be treated with respect and dignity. I have not been. And then I get a letter in September 2016 that I'm being accepted but don't contact them, an adviser will be in touch in the next 18 to 20 weeks. That time has passed. I contacted them again to be told I'd be waiting for much, much longer, the same time again, that they were only on June's cases. I e-mailed them telling them my frustration. I feel I'm being abused all over again because of the treatment from Caranua. All I want is a normal, happy life with my past healed.

Sadly, Keith is not the only one to have met with this treatment. My office was contacted by a woman last year who had a similar story.

She sent us her correspondence from the start of May 2015. She was told that her case would be processed in September of that year. She waited patiently until January 2016 when she was told that she could not be given a timeframe. She wrote again in August 2016 when a different administrator told her that Caranua could not state when it would be dealt with. When my office asked it to give her a clear answer, we were told that the application would not be processed until mid-2017. These are the delays about which we are talking. It is an unacceptable run-around. One of the reasons given for the length of time being taken was that Caranua was dealing with first-time applicants, but Keith is a first-time applicant and his case has not been dealt with.

The decision to prioritise new applicants was taken without consultation with the survivor groups. Many applicants were unaware of it. They received a letter pointing out that they had already received significant support from Caranua since first applying and that it was delighted to have been able to respond to their needs and hoped they would continue to enjoy the benefits but that it considered their applications to be completed. Some 1,000 of these letters were sent. People were told by telephone that they had reached the cut-off point, that others were in front of them and that Caranua's quota had been reached. Caranua does not have discretion over which applications it processes.

The appeals officer's report questions this approach. He wrote:

While I can understand Caranua's desire to ensure that the Fund is distributed as widely as possible among eligible applicants, it is obliged to do this in a manner which is consistent with its statutory remit as provided for in the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Act 2012. The essence of Caranua's statutory remit is to assess individual applications for approved services by reference to the provisions of the Act and published criteria and in the case of unsuccessful applicants, to inform them of the reasons why their application was unsuccessful and how they can go about lodging an appeal.

Caranua has failed appallingly and breached its statutory remit by using a prioritisation scheme that it had no legal right to introduce. Other Deputies have made strong points about the concerns expressed by the appeals officer and everyone else. I was glad to hear them being echoed by the Minister, who is new to his brief.

This situation cannot continue. We cannot undo the damage done to people, but if we are serious when we say we are sorry, we can correct the way in which they are now being treated. That could start tomorrow with a strong communiqué from the Department to the offices of Caranua to the effect that the way in which it has been treating people in forcing them to act like beggars and not giving them clear, accurate and consistent information is not on in this day and age, and that those who continue to do so will be held accountable. It is not public service but public disservice, to which no one should be exposed, least of all the people who deserve our help the most.

The Government and Fianna Fáil should have a think about this matter before the vote next week. Their objections can be addressed in progressing the Bill to Committee Stage. If they still believe the numbers issue presents a problem at that point, we can remove it and carry on with the rest of the Bill, but we need to proceed. It is not good enough to say the Government needs more time. It has had more than enough time. It has had more time than the Statute Book allows. It is the day of the people concerned. They need justice and some form of assistance for the damage that was done to them. I appeal to Deputies, the Minister in particular, to ensure Caranua will get the message loud and clear that some of its behaviour must stop afflicting the people concerned.

Amendment put.

In accordance with Standing Order 70(2), the division is postponed until the weekly division time on Thursday, 9 March 2017.

The Dáil adjourned at 7.15 p.m. until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 7 March 2017.