Abuse victims appeal redress rulings

Survivors of child abuse appealed 47 decisions by the body established to oversee requests for assistance from the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund last year.

However, only three complaints against decisions by Caranua, the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board, were upheld by an appeals officer.

Caranua was set up in 2013 to oversee the €110m fund which has been pledged by religious congregations to assist survivors of child abuse at industrial schools and residential institutions.

It is estimated that around 15,000 people who received compensation through settlements, the courts or the Residential Institutions Redress Board are eligible to access the fund for specified approved services such as health, education, and housing supports.

In his first annual report, appeals officer Patrick Whelan said 16 out of 38 appeals concluded last year related to decisions on eligibility to access the fund. However, he stressed that the regulations which established his role allow him no discretion on who is eligible to avail of the fund. He said this explained why it was not surprising that so many appeals were not upheld.

Nevertheless he observed that it seemed “particularly harsh and unfair to deny, without exception, all persons who have not received awards the opportunity to benefit from the fund”.

Mr Whelan also urged Jan O’Sullivan, the education minister, and Caranua to consider the inclusion of some services which do not come within the scope of the fund. They include funeral expenses, writing and book publishing, and visits to the institution and relatives’ burial places.

It is understood Caranua is separately considering requesting that the minister allow funding to be available for such services.

Other appeals related to home improvements or housing, refusals for provision of a car or van as well as mortgage or bank loan arrears.

Mr Whelan said he had found it necessary to remind Caranua on several occasions of its obligation to provide applicants with a reason why their applications were unsuccessful.

He also took issue with Caranua in a number of cases about comments made by some of its staff to unsuccessful applicants about the appeals process. In one instance, a survivor was told that he would be “wasting his time” making an appeal.

Mr Whelan said he advised Caranua it was important for it not to seek to influence an unsuccessful applicant in relation to making an appeal.

He said he believed independence and informality characterised the approach he took over the past year. He said he had striven to produce comprehensive and clear decisions which were objective and fair to both Caranua and appellants.

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