Government to approve €800m redress scheme for survivors of mother and baby homes

Government to approve €800m redress scheme for survivors of mother and baby homes

Bessborough in Cork, one of the mother and baby homes at the centre of the scandal. Picture: Laura Hutton/RollingNews

An €800m redress scheme for the survivors of mother and baby homes is to be approved next week.

The delayed compensation scheme, which will go further than what had been recommended by the Mother and Baby Homes Commission, will be brought to Cabinet by Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman on Tuesday.

However, the amount the Church pays into the multimillion-euro package has yet to be hammered out. The minister is expected to write to the leaders of Catholic and Protestant groups which were involved in running the homes and hopes to meet them in the coming weeks with a view to getting agreement on a “significant contribution” to the scheme.

Writing to survivors, Mr O’Gorman confirmed that a detailed, costed proposal for the compensation scheme, which the Government initially promised to have ready by the end of April, has been finalised.

Commission's criteria may be scrapped

The scheme will provide financial payments and a form of enhanced medical card to defined groups in acknowledgement of suffering experienced while resident in the institutions.

It is understood the commission’s suggested qualifying criteria for the scheme — that mothers had stayed in an institution for at least six months — has been scrapped and there will be no time threshold on applications. The scheme will not be limited to those resident in homes before 1974, as had been recommended by the commission.

Campaigners say the Government cannot repeat the shortcomings seen with the Magdalene laundries scheme and the redress must include access to records.

Campaigners Claire McGettrick and Maeve O’Rourke of the Clann Project said the remit of the commission was “extremely limited” and only a fraction of the institutors, agencies, and individuals involved in “forcibly separating unmarried families” had been examined.

“The Government’s scheme should go beyond the confines of the commission’s terms of reference,” they said: 

The ‘enhanced healthcare’ must be in the form of the full HAA [Health Amendment Act] card recommended for Magdalene survivors by Mr Justice John Quirke in 2013. This card has never been given to Magdalene survivors, many of whom are in desperate need of health and social care services. This should be rectified and all survivors of the institutions given the full breadth of HAA benefits. 

Mr O’Gorman thanked survivors and their families for their “ongoing patience” and said the time needed to finalise Government deliberations on these complex issues was “regretted”.

“I want to reassure you that this will not cause a delay in the scheme opening up to applications,” he said.

Mr O’Gorman is also expected to bring forward an action plan for survivors and former residents of mother and baby and county home institutions on Tuesday. The plan will provide a framework to support implementation and oversight of the 22 commitments made by Government in response to the final report of the commission of investigation, published in January.

“The plan takes account of the commission’s recommendations as well as the expressed needs and concerns of survivors, former residents, and their families,” Mr O’Gorman told survivors.

Tuam bill is before Seanad

Meanwhile, the Burials Bill, which will allow for the excavation of remains from the Tuam mother and baby home site, is going through the Seanad. However, the Clann Project campaigners said: “The Government claims to need new legislation to excavate institutional gravesites. But there is already the power and obligation under existing coronial law to exhume bodies and examine them, and to investigate causes of death in State care.”

They said redress also means inquests into the disappearance of children and women and the Attorney General has the power to immediately order inquests.

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