Almost 600 abuse survivors have bid for financial help rejected by fund
Nearly 600 people who applied for financial help from the statutory body set up to manage a €110m fund for survivors of childhood institutional abuse were turned down, it emerged yesterday.
The revelation is made in the 2016 annual report of Caranua, which manages the fund from religious congregations.
The body has recently been at the centre of a storm of criticism from survivors, some of whom claim it has failed to treat them with compassion or dignity.
The report said that from 2014 to 2016, almost 32,000 payments had been made, at an average value of €14,000.
Some €56m has been spent on survivors and a further €3.7m on administration. But 591 were unsuccessful.
A spokeswoman for Caranua said: "Eligibility to apply to the fund is limited to those survivors who received financial awards through settlements, the Irish courts or the Residential Institutions Redress Board.
"The range of services that Caranua can consider is limited to health, education and housing that are not readily available from public bodies." She said Caranua had refused just 3pc of applications processed.
This was due to various reasons, including that an application made was for a treatment or a service that is available publicly.
"Caranua can only pay for services that are not readily available from public bodies," she added.
It cannot pay for rent, mortgage, rates, service charges or arrears.
At the end of last year, there were 264 appeals against a refusal lodged and out of 163 decisions, 10 were overturned.
The report defends its controversial decision to put a limit on the value of services that an individual can receive from June last year.
From that date, the upper limit of financial aid was €15,000. This was necessary to make the fund sustainable and more responsive to the needs of survivors, it insisted.
However, this change was among the issues which upset some survivors.
The report said the reaction from survivors so far had been "reassuringly positive".
It said that in 2016, the highest area of spending was on housing.
"This is not surprising, given the items that are paid for - such as accessible bathrooms, adaptations, heating systems, insulation and replacement doors - are high cost."
The report said that in supporting these items, it aimed to ensure that applicants could be at home, safe, secure and warm, "so that they will not be admitted to institutions later in their lives".
The salary of Caranua chief executive Mary Higgins was €85,451.
At the end of 2016, some €96.2m of the fund had been paid into the account from religious congregations and it expected to receive the balance of €13.8m this year.
The Public Accounts Committee was told recently that Caranua paid more than €50,000 in the past year from the fund for office space.
Seán Ó Foghlú, head of the Department of Education, said Caranua was in Office of Public Works-managed offices and a contribution of €106,000 was due, €50,000 of which was paid.