Funding body’s legal action delays abuse victims’ appeals

More than a dozen appeals of decisions on applications for health and education supports for victims of institutional child abuse are being delayed due to a legal challenge brought by the body which administers the funding.

Statutory body Caranua has paid out more than €57m up to the end of last year, including over €15m paid to 7,000 applicants last year for a range of supports.

However, there has been criticism in the past year over its dealings with clients, who had to previously receive financial compensation through settlements, courts or the Residential Institutions Redress Board to qualify for assistance.

An appeals’ officer can reconsider cases where an applicant is unhappy with a decision, but Caranua has referred a decision of the appeals officer to the High Court, as it is entitled to do under the 2012 act under which it was set up.

Asked about the situation in the Dáil yesterday by Galway independent TD Catherine Connolly, Education Minister Richard Bruton said he is aware the initiation of legal action has meant a number of cases are being held over by the appeals officer pending resolution of the matter.

“I understand that some 12 cases are involved. I understand, also, that a number of new appeals cases that raise similar issues are awaiting responses from Caranua,” said Mr Bruton.

Although there are 57 appeal cases remaining to be heard, the number was 148 in June and has halved since Mr Bruton appointed two further appeals officers this year. There was just one appeal officer up to that, but the number of appeals has increased dramatically over the past two years.

Although they remain a small proportion of total applications, the decisions of Caranua in 155 cases were referred to the appeals officer in the year to the end of last January. This was up from just 47 appeals in 2014 and 101 in 2015.

Mr Bruton said that four of the current cases being considered by the appeals’ officers have been active for over a year and one other has been active for between nine months and a year. Of the remaining cases, 17 are active for between three and six months, and another 29 are active for less than three months.

A €15,000 limit has been in place since June 2016 on the support any applicant can receive, mainly due to concerns about Caranua’s capacity to meet all claims. A fund of €110m is committed from religious orders to support the work, but around €10m has yet to be received.

Also in the Dáil, Solidarity TD Richard Boyd-Barrett criticised Mr Bruton’s non-intervention in a row over the planned sale by the Christian Brothers of playing fields at Clonkeen College in Blackrock, Co Dublin.

It is understood that €8m of the reported €18m sale price would allow the congregation to meet its full commitment to the Caranua fund, but seven people associated with the school have taken a legal case to stop the sale, based on assurances they say were given in 2006 that the land would be available to the school as long as it operates.

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