The redress process put in place for survivors of institutional abuse was “adversarial, difficult, traumatic, and negative”, a new report has found.
The study, compiled by independent facilitators Barbara Walshe and Catherine O’Connell for the Department of Education and Skills, was based on a series of more than 30 consultations with over 100 survivors of abuse in residential institutions, on the themes and issues that are of most concern to them.
The report found that survivors were extremely critical of the Residential Institutions Redress Board, which was set up in 2002 to determine the level of compensation they should receive for the abuse they suffered in institutions.
While survivors said that they benefited from some financial support, the way that financial support was allocated and the process that had to be gone through to get it left many with very negative memories.
"People spoke of being ‘on trial’ and ‘going through a court as a guilty person. It was humiliating and caused distress’,” said the report.
The judicial panels of the RIRB were criticised for being in their positions for too long, leading to them becoming ‘cold’, ‘hardened’, and ‘indifferent’ to survivors which impacted on the decisions they made.
Many survivors were also “severely critical” of the redress organisation Caranua, described as “bureaucratic and unnecessarily unwieldy”.
The Caranua Fund was established in 2012 to oversee the use of cash contributions of up to €110m, pledged by the religious congregations to support survivors’ needs.
The capping of the amount survivors could receive midway through its operation distressed survivors, with one stating it felt as though “you couldn’t be trusted, and you were going to rip off the State”.
Survivors on the board of Caranua spoke of being ‘overruled’ on issues such as allowing white goods to be funded. This was changed in 2016.
There was a recognition that, while Caranua’s service had improved when dedicated supports were publicised and support became available to access them, many survivors do not regret its closure and the main worry about this now is the number of applicants still awaiting decisions.
The core finding of the consultations on priority issues and concerns was that “urgent action is needed on health, housing, social supports, and enough income to live on in dignity whether survivors have been through the redress system or not”.