These are the Board Meeting minutes from the Inaugural Meeting of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board (RISF)
Board Room, Department of Education and Skills (DES) Marlborough Street, Dublin 1
Ms Sylda Langford, Chairperson
Mr Damian Casey
Mr Austin Currie
Mr Tom Daly
Mr Paddy Doyle
Ms Bernadette Fahy
Ms Katherine Finn BL
Ms Phyllis Morgan
Mr Martin Power
Ms Eithne Doherty, Secretary/Manager Education Finance Board
Ms Mary Higgins, CEO (Designate)
1. Introduction by Chair
The Chairperson welcomed the Minister for Education and Skills, (DES) Mr Ruairi Quinn TD to this inaugural meeting and thanked the members for their acceptance of the role placed upon them in the strategic and executive management of the Board. The Chairperson also thanked the DES officials for their advice and guidance in the run-up to the Board’s establishment. She also welcomed the CEO (Designate) and looked forward to creating an efficient and effective service to support the needs of former residents upon her appointment
2. Statement by Minister for Education and Skills
Minister for Education and Skills, (DES) Mr Ruairi Quinn TD opened his statement by thanking the members for accepting his invitation to become members of the new Board particularly as the positions are unremunerated. The members had been chosen for their different skills and experiences. He singled out the two former resident members from the United Kingdom, Mr Martin Power and Ms Phyllis Morgan whose perspectives should enhance the Board’s understanding of those former residents who no longer live in Ireland.
The Minister then outlined the comprehensive responses to residential abuse naming the Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse, the Ryan Report, the establishment of the Residential Institutions Redress Board, the Education Finance Board, the National Counselling Service, the Origins Family Tracing Service operated by Barnardos and support for survivor groups and outreach services in the UK. The provision of a Memorial to victims of abuse as recommended by the Ryan Report, at present awaiting planning permission from Dublin City Council and he thanked the two former residents on the Board, Mr Paddy Doyle and Ms Bernadette Fahy who were part of this endeavour. The new Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board (RISFB) was another important step in ensuring that we, as a people can ease the pain and suffering of those who still bear the scars of abuse suffered in institutions.
The Minister summarized the development in childcare procedures and practices for the protection of future generations of children noting the new Department of Children and Youth Affairs along with the new Child and Family Support Agency together with the putting of the Children First Guidelines on a statutory basis and the enshrining of children’s rights in our Constitution.
Following on the Minister updated the members on the new investment account opened by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA). €41.3 million from the religious congregations had now been transferred to the new account, further contributions of €27 million will be received shortly and a further amount would be transferred on
the sale of property. The Minister assured the Board that they would be kept informed at all times of any new developments by Department officials. The full costs of the response to residential institutional abuse was expected to reach €1.5billion and the Minister would be reporting to the Cabinet on the engagement with the religious congregations on the proposal that the costs should be shared on a 50:50 basis between the State and those responsible for the management of institutions.
In conclusion the minister recognized the challenges faced by the Board in the setting up of the Criteria and the data protection issues the Board faces when reaching out to the 15,000 potential applicants. He was also aware of the desire to open out eligibility to the fund and in being cognizant of this the fund will be reviewed two years after its establishment. He thanked the Chairperson, the DES officials and welcomed the CEO (Designate). On behalf of the Government he expressed his gratitude to all who were present on agreeing to take part in this important work.
3. Chair Response and Open Discussion
The Chairperson responded to the Minister by seeking his advice on approaching the Residential Institutions Redress Board to send an initial publicity letter to all successful applicants to inform them of the establishment of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board. The Minister in reply outlined the legal constraints under Data Protection law and he invited the Board to explore this option with appropriate legal advice.
(Minister departs meeting. CEO (Designate) departs meeting.)
On the departure of the Minister the meeting opened up for discussion and the following issues arose: a smooth and uncomplicated access to the fund as a critical issue for former residents; the setting up of the application processes; the design of a website; the use of the Education Finance Board’s database for publicity purposes and the finite nature of the fund.
4. Appointment of Chief Executive Officer
The Chairperson acknowledged the expertise around the Board’s table and hoped the experience of working together would be a fruitful and useful experience for everyone. She expressed the desire to have the fund depleted and spent within the term of the Board. For this to succeed an efficient system would need to be in place, a criteria that would support former residents’ needs would be created and a common sense approach within the law would prevail throughout the tenure of the Board.
She informed the members that under Section 13 (5) of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Act 2012 the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) shall be appointed by the Board with the consent of the Minister. The Chief Executive shall carry on and manage and control generally the administration of the Board. The Minister for Education and Skills has designated Ms Mary Higgins to be the first CEO following her selection from a recruitment competition held by the Public Appointments Service. The appointment is for five years and the terms and conditions attached to the position have been approved by the Minister for Education and Skills with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in accordance with section 13(6) of the Act. Following discussion on the considerable leadership and management experience of the CEO the members agreed on the proposal of Mr Tom Daly and seconded by Ms Bernadette Fahy to the appointment of Ms Mary Higgins as CEO of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board.
Prior to the invitation to Ms Mary Higgins to rejoin the meeting Mr Paddy Doyle requested that any accommodation that the Board may provide have disability access. It was agreed that in the first instance the Secretary/Manager to the Education Finance Board would check the accommodation at Frederick Court, 24/27 North Frederick Street and if this was not suitable the Chairperson offered the board room at the Citizens Information Board for the next meeting of the Board.
(CEO (Designate) joins meeting)
The Chairperson welcomed the CEO on behalf of the Board and clarified the different roles of being Chairperson of the Board and being CEO of this Board. The CEO then addressed the members stating that she was looking forward to the challenge which was full of exciting possibilities. She enjoyed setting up new projects and had been involved in administering grant schemes in the past. The fund was the means of supporting former residents and their needs and by working together we can make a difference to peoples’ lives.
The members then formally introduced themselves giving a brief synopsis of their skill set relevant to the Board’s business. After discussion around the start date of the CEO it was agreed that a possible date of commencement might be 29th April subject to the contract and the Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme and Other Provisions) Act 2012 being approved by the Ministers for Education and Skills and Public Expenditure and Reform.
5. Board Arrangements
6. Background to RISF/Briefing Material
7. Dissolution of Education Finance Board and Transfer to RISF
8. Staffing and Accommodation
9. Financial Position
The Chairperson informed the members that items 5-9 inclusive concerned the transition phase of making the Board an entity. The term of office under the Act is for four years with effect from 25th March 2013. She encouraged the members to study the Board’s papers prepared for this meeting in order to understand the challenges ahead and the necessity of being compliant with the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Act 2012 in the statutory requirements and the governance required under the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies. It was with this background that the Board would set up systems of efficiency and accountability as well as enhancing an ethos of openness and transparency.
It was agreed in addition to studying the background material to the Board to ask the Assistant Principal, DES to forward the link to the Oireachtas website with the transcriptions of the discussions that took place during the passage of the RISF Act 2012
The dissolution of the Education Finance Board (EFB) and its transfer of functions to the RISFB on 29th March 2013 meant that three staff would be available for the Board. The Chairperson wished to assure the employees of their position in the RISFB and their contracts would be regularized as soon as possible subject to the Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme and Other Provisions) Act 2012 and being approved by the Ministers for Education and Skills and Public Expenditure and Reform
The secretary/manager of the EFB presented to the members issues for the Board’s consideration and it was agreed that the RISFB will prepare final accounts for the EFB and submit them to the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) for audit not later than three months after the specified period as per section 39 of the RISF Act 2012.
Also under section 39 of the RISF Act 2012 it was agreed that the RISFB will prepare a final report for the dissolved body and submit it along with the final accounts and the report of the C&AG not later than one month after receiving the report to the Minister for Education and Skills. Following this both reports would be laid before each House of the Oireachtas
As per Section 41 of the RISF Act 2012 it was agreed that the Board would request the NTMA to close the EFB account not later than 30 days following the laying of the final accounts and to transfer any balance into the RISF investment account.
The secretary/manager of the Education Finance Board informed the members that City of Dublin VEC were the paying agency for grants, salaries and administration costs and it was agreed to continue this agreement in the interim until the RISF had its own systems in place.
The secretary/manager of EFB informed the Board of a request for a draw-down of €20,000 from CDVEC for the period March/April 2013 and it was agreed to authorise this payment in consultation with the NTMA as to the appropriate signatories. The Chairperson requested Mr Damian Casey, board member to take charge of this area and to report directly to the Chairperson as to its progress.
Following this a general discussion ensued as to the suitability of the EFB systems for the needs of the Board and whether long-term, the site of the EFB in Frederick Court, 24/27 North Frederick Street was the most suitable location for the Board. Mr Martin Power wished the Board to take consideration of the possibility of having dedicated mobile phones for the members. It was agreed that as and from 29th March 2013 the phone lines of EFB would have RISFB information and the EFB website would carry a press release provided by DES. There would also be a link to the DES website.
The secretary/manager of the EFB informed the members that expenses for members of the EFB had been paid by DES under section 33 (9) of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (Amendment) Act 2005 and it was agreed that a system be set up as soon as the CEO started her appointment for the members’ convenience.
10. Programme of work
The Chairperson thanked the members for their attendance and contribution to this inaugural meeting of the Board. She reiterated that the Board was taking the necessary administrative steps to ensure that appropriate systems of internal control are in place to enable it to perform its functions. The actions required in relation to the dissolution of the Education Finance Board have been agreed and further meetings will concentrate on policy and governance to ensure that former residents have access to an open and transparent service.
The CEO informed the members that she would contact each member individually to ascertain their views and considerations
12. Next Meeting
It was agreed that the next meeting of the Board would take place on Thursday 09 May 2013 @ 10.30 with the venue to be agreed if the Education Finance Board Room was not suitable. The members agreed the meeting date and time @ 10.30 for the remainder of the year as June 13, July 9, August 15, September 12, October 10, November 14 and December 10.