Lack of aftercare meant girls returned to institutions

Girls abused in residential homes often returned to “slave labour” situations at religious institutions to avoid more exploitative lives on work placement.

Lack of aftercare meant girls returned to institutions

This was one of the findings of a report delivered to government 12 years before the recent and, less critical, examination of the Magdalene Laundries.

The 2001 report said a lack of aftercare meant girls left abusive establishments run by religious orders only to find themselves as victims of unscrupulous private employers. These teenagers were ill-equipped for life outside institutions and were pushed towards crime, emigration, homelessness, and substance abuse.

The report, presented by the then senior counsel Seán Ryan, had taken submissions from women who were shunned once they left the residential schools.

“While release was to be welcomed after many years of residency, the lack of preparation in basic life- skills rendered the young people vulnerable to perils which existed in the outside world,” it said.

The report’s assessment of this route to Magdalene Laundries reveals marked differences to the account presented in the report by Martin McAleese.

Mr Ryan, later a High Court judge, subsequently chaired the Commission of Inquiry into Child Abuse.

His report, from the 2001 Compensation Advisory Committee on Redress, said when their education finished at 16, girls from reformatories often had little experience of handling money, travelling on public transport, filling in forms, shopping, or cooking.

The committee was told the abuse they suffered as children was a major contributory factor to their lives falling apart as young adults.

“We received many reports of ‘slave labour’ situations, with little financial payment and no ability to escape. In spite of the reportedly harsh regimes of the [religious] institutions, some said that they returned seeking help because of the miserable existence to which they were exposed on placement,” it said.

In those cases, a return to religious-run institutions happened after the women suffered during organised work placements.

Dr McAleese’s report found significant links between the residential and industrial schools and the workhouses. It documented the experiences of some who left industrial schools only to return to laundries.

Like the original Ryan report, Dr McAleese’s work criticised the absence of state-sponsored aftercare for children released from industrial schools. It also discussed a “folk memory” of girls in reformatories who were transferred directly to laundries because they were considered “not fit for the world”.

However, Dr McAleese’s report suggested private employment offered an alternative.

“Records confirm that the majority of girls on expiry of their period of detention in an industrial school were either sent to employment, frequently as domestic servants or other live-in employment, or returned to their families,” it said.

Damning reports

*“It should be noted, however, that it was not the case that placement in a Magdalene Laundry was the only option for girls or young women retained or following the expiry of the period of their detention in industrial schools.

“Records confirm that the majority of girls on expiry of their period of detention in an industrial school were either sent to employment, frequently as domestic servants or other live-in employment, or returned to their families.”

McAleese report, 2013

*“We received many reports of ‘slave labour’ situations, with little financial payment and no ability to escape. In spite of the reportedly harsh regimes of the [religious] institutions, some said they returned seeking help because of the miserable existence to which they were exposed.

“Several found little sympathy, some told of being punished and returned to the placement without any further investigation of its suitability.”

Ryan report, 2001

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