Thursday, 15 December 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
18. Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on the contentions of a number of former residents of mother and baby homes and their legal representations that the State had a duty of care, where babies were born or placed in these institutions, and therefore should have been included in the remit of the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39666/05]
Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin): The Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002 provides a statutory scheme of financial redress for persons who, as children, were abused while in residential institutional care. The scheme applies in respect of institutions specified in the Schedule to the Act. Section 4 of the Act provides that the Minister for Education and Science may, by order, insert additional institutions in the Schedule to the Act. For an institution to be considered under section 4, it must be an industrial school, a reformatory school, an orphanage, a children’s home, a special school for children with a physical or intellectual disability or a hospital providing medical or psychiatric services to people with a physical or mental disability or mental illness. It must also be one in which children were placed and resident and in respect of which a public body had a regulatory or inspection function.
A total of 128 institutions were originally listed on the Schedule. Since the enactment of the legislation, my Department has been contacted by individuals and/or solicitors about various institutions not specified in the Schedule. Following consideration of the matter and consultation with relevant public bodies, I signed an order on 9 November 2004 which provided for the inclusion of 13 additional institutions in the Schedule. A further order was made on 1 July 2005 adding three institutions to the Schedule.
The Department of Health and Children and other relevant parties were consulted by my Department about certain mother and baby homes and these inquiries have indicated that these homes were privately operated and not subject to State inspection or regulation, or that they operated as hostel facilities which do not come within the scope of section 4 of the Act. As a consequence, it is not possible to give further consideration to the inclusion of these homes in the Schedule.
The redress scheme applies to industrial schools, reformatory schools and other such institutions for children where the State’s duty of care arose from the fact that the children were separated from their families and were placed and resident in institutions over which the State had a regulatory or supervisory responsibility. This situation did not apply in respect of homes or hostels for mothers and their babies. The question of including additional institutions has now been fully considered by my Department in consultation with relevant Government Departments and it is not proposed to add any further institutions to the Schedule.
In the range of Government initiatives to address past abuse, the needs of those who suffered abuse in institutions not covered by the Redress Act is recognised and provided for and various measures have been put in place to assist them. These include the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse and dedicated counselling and other support services for victims of abuse.
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