Caranua vows not to leave abuse survivors 'high and dry'

Caranua vows not to leave abuse survivors 'high and dry'

Redress organisation Caranua has vowed not to leave abuse survivors "high and dry" following concerns that hundreds of applicants may not receive any financial support from the dwindling fund.

The organisation was before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to discuss its financial statement for 2017. It is in the process of winding down after it closed for applications in August 2018.

Caranua was set up in 2012 and operates on the basis that the fund will have a maximum of €111.38m available to it, made up of cash contributions by the religious congregations.

Caranua chief executive Rachel Downes told the committee that Caranua received some 378 applications for funding supports after this deadline and that "except for in exceptional circumstances", it has not provided any funding supports to these applicants.

"We have offered advocacy supports, which some survivors have availed of. In the last 18 months, Caranua has adopted a targeted approach to outreach events by focusing on a number of specific survivor groups including, survivors who required additional supports managing their application and survivors who had received limited or no funding supports," she said.

The fund has been in the headlines in recent months after the Irish Examiner revealed that it would not have enough money to cover the cost of outstanding funding supports for abuse survivors unless it “urgently” received some €6.3m pledged to it by the Christian Brothers. The Order has paid some €3.3m of this outstanding sum in the past six weeks. The remainder is due by the end of the year.

A number of Committee members expressed concern that these late applicants would be left with no funding supports despite being entitled to the help.

However, Caranua chairman David O'Callaghan said the organisation was reviewing all of the cases that were received after the date of closure and that these applicants would not be "left high and dry".

The organisation pointed out that the average funding support per application is €13,500 and that there were a total of 317 open applications. As a result, there was a "good chance" that late applications would also be processed as there will be sufficient money in the fund to cover them once the outstanding €3m is paid by the end of the year.

Mr O'Callaghan also addressed repeated criticisms of the organisation in the past by the C&AG over the lack of internal controls over how payments were made to abuse survivors. He pointed out that the agency was "set up hastily" without sufficient staff or resources to deal with the huge number of applications it started receiving in 2014.

Fine Gael's Kate O'Connell said Caranua was a "basket case" from the very beginning and that the agency was only now beginning to function correctly, at a time when it is winding down.

"I'm really disappointed that this was the system set up for people to engage with. It's doesn't seem fair to me," she said.

Mr O'Callaghan said that while "it wasn't quite a basket case" he conceded that "it wasn't far from it" in the early stages of its operation.

Ms Downes also said it was "a shame" that the fund was now winding down since significant improvements have been made in the service, staffing and resourcing of the agency since 2016.

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