Victims’ groups want compo for those aged 50+

SUPPORT groups representing victims of institutional abuse want a €10,000 interim compensation payment to be made to survivors over the age of 50.

The payment is currently proposed for victims who are elderly and infirm, with a lower age limit of 65 suggested last year by the Government.

However, with the work of a new compensation scheme for survivors due to begin today, the Aislinn Centre, which represents hundreds of victims, has called for an easing of age restrictions on applications for the award.

Spokeswoman Christine Buckley said she feared the Government planned to up the interim payment age limit to 70.

“I heard as much in a meeting with legal representatives last week. That is not acceptable, given the difficult lives many of our survivors have had. Life has not been good to many of them, marriages have broken up, health failed and huge numbers are homeless.

“Up to 80 have died since the Government first apologised to victims in May 1999, 20 by their own hand. Also I believe that the Residential Institutions Redress Board (RIRB) will not be able to hear all abuse cases within its three-year time frame. This strengthens the case for the interim payment to be extended.”

The RIRB, set up by the Oireachtas following the Government’s apology to victims, will decide on compensation levels for those sexually, physically, or emotionally abused or neglected while in residential institutions.

Judge Kieran O’Connor, chairperson of the board, said compensation will be assessed on the basis of a scheme worked out by a committee of experts. The upper limit is in the region of €300,000. The scheme also covers legal costs of the claimant.

Application forms will be sent out to survivors from today, which they must forward to the board if they wish to claim.

However Ms Buckley said there was no guarantee they would reach all survivors.

“There are some elderly women still residing in institutions we knew as the Magdalene Laundries. How do we know the application forms will reach them? Have they been made aware of their entitlements? My concern is for these women and others in prison or in psychiatric care.”

SOCA (Survivors of Child Abuse) spokesman John Kelly criticised the board for its delay in setting up.

“It was meant to be up and running in June. All they are doing today is sending out application forms, to give the perception that the whole thing is moving ahead. It’s a smokescreen.”

Mr Kelly said they would be seeking an urgent meeting with Education Minister Noel Dempsey to clarify the names of institutions covered by redress. A list of institutions was published as part of the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2001. However, the Minister has said names of institutions where the State had an inspection or regulatory function should also be included.

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