Thursday, 3 June 2021
Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries
312. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth when the evaluation commissioned by his predecessor into the Mother and Baby Homes Collaborative Forum undertaken by a person (details supplied) in 2019 will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30299/21]
313. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth The learnings that have been taken from the operation of the Mother and Baby Homes Collaborative Forum; the improvements that will be made for future collaboration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30300/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 312 and 313 together.
The Collaborative Forum of former residents of mother and baby homes and related institutions was established in 2018 to facilitate survivors to identify, discuss and prioritise the issues of concern to them and their families. This process was established to support dialogue with survivors and their representatives while the statutory Commission of Investigation was conducting its examination of related matters. This important context was recognised in the published Charter, which set out the general functions of the Forum and provided a blueprint for its methodology and programme of work.
Our learnings from the Forum process primarily centre on the fundamental importance and value of structured engagement and consistent communication with survivors. I recognise that many survivors want to contribute to the development of solutions to the issues of concern to them and their families. As the Deputy will be aware, I have personally engaged with survivors and advocacy groups since my appointment and will continue to engage with those most centrally involved with these matters.
For these reason, I am committed to ongoing engagement with survivors and their advocates in the context of the 22 actions approved by Government in responding to the findings of the Commission. These measures, which take account of the Commission's recommendations and those of the Collaborative Forum, are intended to respond to the priority needs and concerns of former residents and their families.
Notably, several hundred survivors have contacted my Department since the Commission’s report was published in January. Many of these individuals had never been in contact with my Department before. This increased level of engagement is also evident from the consultation process established to inform development of a Restorative Recognition Scheme, with approximately 450 written submissions received and 159 participants in 17 online meetings.
As I have previously outlined, our experience to date tells us that stakeholder engagement at this level requires additional dedicated structures, processes and resources to ensure it can be inclusive, effective and sustainable. I held two virtual meetings with members of the Collaborative Forum in February during which future arrangements for stakeholder engagement was a specific agenda item. The Facilitator to the Forum has engaged in detailed discussions with individual members in relation to a preliminary proposal in this regard. I understand this process is nearing completion and look forward to hearing their feedback. The experience of Forum members, and other stakeholders with whom I have engaged, will assist the development of a new and enhanced model of engagement.
As I have acknowledged previously, the Collaborative Forum process, including the initiated formative evaluation, was unfortunately interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. After its meeting in December 2019, it was considered necessary to postpone plenary meetings in 2020 in the context of the public health restrictions. A number of members travel from outside the jurisdiction and some were in the at-risk groups identified by public health authorities.
The formative evaluation into the Collaborative Forum was commissioned by the then Minister with a view to informing decisions on operation of that model and identifying priority issues for further consideration. In this regard, the outcome of the process can equally contribute to current deliberations on the design and implementation of an appropriate model to support engagement.
In parallel with the arrangements being advanced to facilitate publication of the Forum’s report, I expect to be able to share the outcome of the evaluation with Forum members in the coming weeks. My Department will engage directly will Forum members in this regard.
314. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth when the Oak Report relating to the Mother and Baby Homes Collaborative Forum will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30301/21]
As part of its response to the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes (and Certain Related Matters), the Government has committed to establishing a Restorative Recognition Scheme for survivors of mother and baby and county home institutions. This scheme will include a restorative recognition payment and a form of enhanced medical card.
An Interdepartmental Group (IDG) was established to develop detailed proposals for the Restorative Recognition Scheme, which must then be brought to Government for approval.
To support and inform the work of the IDG, a public consultation process took place during March and April. This public consultation was undertaken by OAK on behalf of my Department. The input from survivors to that consultation is invaluable in order to develop a scheme that will have their needs at its core. I was delighted with the strong response to the consultation process. Approximately 450 written submissions were received and 17 online meetings were held, with one of these meetings specifically arranged for members of the Collaborative Forum. OAK submitted their final report on the consultation process to the IDG on 17th May.
The development of this scheme is a priority for me and I am aware that the IDG are working extremely hard to ensure that they deliver their report to me very soon. Following this, I will submit recommendations to Government for a decision on the Scheme. The consultation report prepared by OAK and submitted to the IDG will be published after Government has concluded its deliberations.
315. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth when the report of the Mother and Baby Homes Collaborative Forum will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30302/21]
It was not possible to publish the report from the Collaborative Forum when it was first submitted to the then Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, because of concerns that its contents encroached upon the work of the independent statutory Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes. For this reason, the Forum's recommendations were initially published and a commitment was given to revisit the question of publication following the completion of the Commission's work.
Arrangements are currently being advanced by my Department to address the procedural requirement for identifiable parties to be afforded due process prior to publication.
I expect this process to be completed in the coming weeks. I will then be in a position to engage further with the Collaborative Forum and finalise arrangements for the publication of the report.