Below are questions asked by TDs in Dáil Éireann, relating to Caranua and other areas relevant to survivors
Complaints about Caranua
Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the growing number of complaints and delays regarding the processing of applications to Caranua; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): As the Deputy is aware Caranua is an independent statutory body and I have no role in regard to its day to day operations. It is a matter for Caranua’s Board and executive to manage its activities and to put in place systems and processes that are appropriate having regard to the organization’s statutory remit.
I would like to point out that, up to the end of June 2016, Caranua had spent some €50 million in supports to or on behalf of 3,545 applicants. A significant level of funding has been provided to a large number of former residents which is to be welcomed.
I understand that Caranua takes all complaints seriously and that it has a Customer Service Charter and Feedback and Complaints Policy which may be accessed on the organisation’s website (www.caranua.ie). The website allows applicants to provide feedback, submit comments and make formal complaints in cases where there is dissatisfaction with the quality of service provided. Furthermore, Caranua comes within the scope of the Ombudsman Acts 1980 to 2012 and its administrative actions are subject to review by the Ombudsman. It is worth noting also that Caranua is amenable to scrutiny by the Oireachtas, including its committees.
I understand that as part of the applications process there are extensive levels of communications between Caranua and applicants. Each applicant is assigned an Application Advisor who is responsible for guiding an applicant through the applications process, helping them to identify the full range of needs they have and providing them with any supporting information that may be needed to complete the application. While there have been delays in the past, I am not aware of there being significant delays in the application process at present. If the Deputy is aware of a particular case where there has been an inordinate delay in the processing of an individual application I would encourage her to raise the matter directly with Caranua.
Oral PQ: Terms of reference of Caranua review
Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an update on the terms of reference for the review of services by Caranua; and when he expects that review to conclude.
Deputy Clare Daly: I have two related questions and we may not have time for the second one. They relate to the operation of the Caranua scheme. The first question deals with the terms of reference of the review. The legislation which gave rise to the scheme provided that it would be reviewed after two years. Deputy Bruton is the third Minister to have this brief and it has not yet been reviewed. When I asked the Minister in June, he told me the terms of reference would be set in July and that the review would take place in the autumn. We are almost at the end of autumn and none of the groups has been consulted. I am seeking an update on it.
Minister Richard Bruton: I am told the terms of reference and arrangements for review are being considered, and I am hopeful they will be finalised shortly. The review will be confined to the issue of eligibility and will have regard to the level of uptake of the funding available to Caranua. Over €50 million of the €110 million earmarked for the organisation has already been expended in the provision of supports to eligible former residents. I intend that the review will have regard to the views of all interested parties and I expect the draft terms of reference will be published and submissions invited from the public.
Deputy Clare Daly: I will look forward to seeing them. The Minister said it would deal with eligibility. It is open only to people who originally received an award under the State redress scheme. Is the Minister saying the Government is seeking to expand the number of people who could potentially avail of it? In our contact with people, the criterion by which people can access services is critically important, as is the way in which people are consulted with. We are dealing with incredibly vulnerable people who were abused at the hands of the State, and the manner in which many of them feel their cases are being addressed by Caranua is almost akin to a re-abuse of them. They feel they are not being listened to or updated on their claims, and they are being kept in the dark and treated poorly. Regarding the customer service charter operated by Caranua and the lofty aspirations about treating people courteously, listening to them and giving timely information, none of those has been the direct experience of survivors. Will this also be part of the review?
Minister Richard Bruton: I understand Caranua endeavours to ensure the greatest support to the residents involved and to deal with people in a fair and equitable way. The review will examine issues such as the extent of improved services to those who have made applications, the way in which it is been promoted to eligible people and the potential changes to eligibility to include other groups or categories of assistance. The review will examine the operation and, hopefully, ensure the money available is used to best effect for the clients involved.
Deputy Clare Daly: It has been severely delayed. The review is years overdue. The Minister told me he thought the terms of reference would be available in July. Can we take it with absolute certainty that the terms of reference will be published, for example, by the end of the month? What is the likely timeframe for the review? This will not work unless there is full consultation. What process will be embarked on to ensure the information gets out there and that the service users who have interfaced with Caranua know their input can come in? They are the best people to say whether the scheme is working, given that they have had the direct experience. If we block out their knowledge, we are on a severely rocky road.
The full amount has not been handed over by the residential institutions. There were reports in the newspapers earlier in the week about the shortfall of hundreds of millions of euro in the State redress scheme. Some €25 million has yet to be put into this scheme. The idea of capping the amount to people is reprehensible.