The revelation is contained in documents sent by Caranua to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), following its appearance before the committee last month. Caranua was established by the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Act 2012 to oversee the use of cash contributions of up to €110m, pledged by the religious congregations, to support the needs of survivors of institutional child abuse.
In the documents, Caranua outline details of €94,648 it paid to the Towards Healing counselling service in respect of 59 individuals in 2015 and 2016. The bulk of this, €87,263, was paid in 2015, with the remainder paid the following year.
Towards Healing provides a face-to-face and telephone counselling service to people who experienced abuse in institutions managed by religious congregations on behalf of the State, clerical sexual abuse, and to others impacted by such abuse. According to its website, it is funded by way of a €3m budget every year, which comes exclusively from the Catholic Church.
In its submission to the PAC, Caranua said it initially advises anyone seeking support to avail of counselling, free of charge from Immigrant Counselling and Psychotherapy (ICAP), National Counselling Service, and Connect, which are all funded by the State, and Towards Healing. It also said it outlines the services, their origins, and the sources of funding to survivors.
However, unlike other counselling services, Towards Healing introduced a cap of 80 on the number of free sessions that an individual could avail of. It then approached Caranua to enter into an arrangement whereby a person who had reached this cap and required further treatment, could apply to Caranua for support.
Caranua said the concern that the cap was introduced in order to avail of funding from the abuse fund was discussed by the board.
“This matter was considered by the board over a number of meetings during 2014 and a number of meetings were also held between the chair and CEO of both Towards Healing and Caranua (19th March, 5th June, and 15th July).
“The concern that the cap had been introduced in order to avail of funding through Caranua and that this payment from Caranua for services to Towards Healing would, in effect, be a subsidy from one fund supported by Catholic bodies to another, was raised and considered by the board. A decision, in principle, to enter into an agreement with Towards Healing was made by the board at its meeting on 19 June,” Caranua wrote to the PAC.
Caranua told PAC the board was of the opinion that the agreement would help ensure the continuation of services to those who had been clinically assessed as needing those services, while at the same time removing the necessity for individual applicants to provide Caranua with quotes and receipts.
Last week, the Irish Examiner revealed that concerns about an increasing “level of aggression” aimed at Caranua CEO Mary Higgins by abuse survivors at public meetings were raised by board members last year. The revelation is contained in minutes of a board meeting at the River Lee Hotel in Cork in April of last year.