Tuesday, 4 October 2016
Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board
I have two related questions and we may not have time for the second one. They relate to the operation of the Caranua scheme. The first question deals with the terms of reference of the review. The legislation which gave rise to the scheme provided that it would be reviewed after two years. Deputy Bruton is the third Minister to have this brief and it has not yet been reviewed. When I asked the Minister in June, he told me the terms of reference would be set in July and that the review would take place in the autumn. We are almost at the end of autumn and none of the groups has been consulted. I am seeking an update on it.
I am told the terms of reference and arrangements for review are being considered, and I am hopeful they will be finalised shortly. The review will be confined to the issue of eligibility and will have regard to the level of uptake of the funding available to Caranua. Over €50 million of the €110 million earmarked for the organisation has already been expended in the provision of supports to eligible former residents. I intend that the review will have regard to the views of all interested parties and I expect the draft terms of reference will be published and submissions invited from the public.
I will look forward to seeing them. The Minister said it would deal with eligibility. It is open only to people who originally received an award under the State redress scheme. Is the Minister saying the Government is seeking to expand the number of people who could potentially avail of it? In our contact with people, the criterion by which people can access services is critically important, as is the way in which people are consulted with. We are dealing with incredibly vulnerable people who were abused at the hands of the State, and the manner in which many of them feel their cases are being addressed by Caranua is almost akin to a re-abuse of them. They feel they are not being listened to or updated on their claims, and they are being kept in the dark and treated poorly. Regarding the customer service charter operated by Caranua and the lofty aspirations about treating people courteously, listening to them and giving timely information, none of those has been the direct experience of survivors. Will this also be part of the review?
I understand Caranua endeavours to ensure the greatest support to the residents involved and to deal with people in a fair and equitable way. The review will examine issues such as the extent of improved services to those who have made applications, the way in which it is been promoted to eligible people and the potential changes to eligibility to include other groups or categories of assistance. The review will examine the operation and, hopefully, ensure the money available is used to best effect for the clients involved.
It has been severely delayed. The review is years overdue. The Minister told me he thought the terms of reference would be available in July. Can we take it with absolute certainty that the terms of reference will be published, for example, by the end of the month? What is the likely timeframe for the review? This will not work unless there is full consultation. What process will be embarked on to ensure the information gets out there and that the service users who have interfaced with Caranua know their input can come in? They are the best people to say whether the scheme is working, given that they have had the direct experience. If we block out their knowledge, we are on a severely rocky road.
The full amount has not been handed over by the residential institutions. There were reports in the newspapers earlier in the week about the shortfall of hundreds of millions of euro in the State redress scheme. Some €25 million has yet to be put into this scheme. The idea of capping the amount to people is reprehensible.
Who will decide? To whom will the terms of reference revert?
They will come to me for approval. The reason for the delay is that this was to happen two years after the operation began. As the Deputy acknowledged, applications did not begin being accepted until 6 January 2014, so the startup delayed the review date. The purpose is to open the process to those who want to make their views known based on their own experiences. That purpose will form part of the terms of reference.