Below are questions asked by TDs in Dáil Éireann, relating to Caranua
Delays accessing Fund
Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if she will provide an explanation for the inordinate delays regarding the operation of the Caranua scheme and the stress being caused to applicants by waiting periods of nine to ten months before they are contacted.
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O’Sullivan): Caranua, the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board, is an independent statutory body established pursuant to the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Act 2012 to oversee the use of the cash contributions of up to €110 million, pledged by the religious congregations, to support the needs of survivors of institutional child abuse. As the Deputy will be aware Caranua commenced accepting applications on 6th January 2014, and I understand that by 31st December 2014, Caranua had made payments of some €9m to 1,062 applicants.
The management of applications is a matter solely for Caranua and I have no role in that process. I understand however that as part of the applications process there are extensive levels of communications between Caranua and applicants. Significant numbers of calls are received via its Freephone line and 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. The Advisors actively manage each application maintaining contact throughout the process. I am advised by Caranua that there are no applicants awaiting contact for periods as long as 9 or 10 months.
Exceptional circumstances criteria
Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the criteria used in respect of determining hardship in the context of the Caranua handbook, in view of the fact that this is an area which applicants believe is being too harshly monitored and that these criteria could be employed to provide necessary relief for those who are continuing to suffer as a result of abuse they experienced.
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O’Sullivan): Section 9 of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Act 2012 provides that the Board’s criteria for making decisions on applications, can include criteria consistent with the Act for the purpose of the relief of hardship where it is shown to the satisfaction of the Board that exceptional circumstances exist such that the standard criteria can be disregarded. It is a matter for the Board of Caranua to determine its criteria for making decisions in accordance with the Act and I have no role in that process.
I understand that the Caranua information booklet ‘Applying for Services: information and guidelines for making an application’ states that “in cases of extreme hardship and other exceptional circumstances” the criteria for applying for services may be set aside. Caranua has advised that in light of the fact that this area deals with exceptional circumstances it is not appropriate to put in place strict criteria to define these since it would remove the element of discretion that this provision is designed to provide for.
I would also point out that any former resident can appeal a decision made by Caranua on their application to the independent appeals officer appointed pursuant to section 21 of the 2012 Act.
Extension of Fund to relatives
Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills her plans to amend the residential institutions statutory fund in order that the partners and children of the survivors of residential abuse can gain some of the assistance outlined in respect of the Caranua fund, in view of the fact that they are also suffering and that their needs are often a huge source of stress to the abuse victim.
Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O’Sullivan): The Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Act 2012 provides that those former residents who received awards from the Residential Institutions Redress Board or equivalent Court awards or settlements are eligible to apply to Caranua. This approach was taken having regard to the maximum funds available of €110 million and a potential pool of some 15,000 applicants.
As the Deputy may be aware, a commitment was given during the passage of the 2012 Act to review the operation of the Fund two years after its establishment in the event of applications not resulting in a significant expenditure of the Fund. Following its establishment in March 2013, Caranua began to accept applications in January 2014. Accordingly it would be my intention to consider the question of a review of the operation of the Fund later this year by which time a clearer picture should have emerged regarding the uptake of the funding available.