Sunday 26 January 2020

State's help for home survivors set to cost €5m

Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

The Government plans to spend €5m on expert advisors, counselling staff and an extensive research project to address the legacy of mother and baby homes and the effects on an estimated 57,000 former residents, the Sunday Independent has learned.

The plans, outlined by the Minister for Health at a Cabinet meeting before Christmas, include provision of €1.4m to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for 25 additional counselling staff to support the psychological needs of former residents.

Four expert advisors will be appointed to create a "bespoke" counselling and well-being service - at an additional cost of €600,000, including computer costs and support staff. The Health Research Board, meanwhile, will fund a dedicated research study aimed at improving the health and well-being of former residents of mother and baby homes, which is estimated to cost €1m.

The total costs of the support is an estimated €5.1m and will be added to the health budget for 2020, Government sources said.

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The Minister for Health, Simon Harris, announced a package of supports for survivors of mother and baby homes before Christmas, but not its estimated cost.

The measures were proposed by an inter-departmental working group which was appointed to assess the recommendations made by a survivors' forum.

Other recommendations made by the survivors' forum were rejected by the working group, however, including a call for free access to private health insurance on the grounds that the cost to the State could be €130m.

Survivors also called for all former residents of mother and baby homes to be placed on the HAA (Health Amendment Act) card scheme, which entitles recipients to free GP services and a wide range of medical support and therapies. This, too, was rejected.

The Minister for Health has expressed confidence that the package of health and well-being supports will be of "considerable benefit" to former residents.

The forum of former residents - officially called the Collaborative Forum of Former Residents of Mother and Baby Homes - was appointed at the same time as a Commission of Investigation into the burial of infants at mother and baby homes.

The forum was asked to report on how best the State should memorialise these institutions and care for their survivors. It presented its final report to the Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone, last year. The minister has declined to publish it until the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes finishes its work.

The final report of the Commission is due to be published in February.

The Commission revealed in 2016 that a substantial quantity of human remains had been found at the site of a former mother and baby home at Tuam, in the vicinity of a disused sewage tank.

The children's minister has promised to work on legislation to allow a major investigation of the site at Tuam, enabling it to be forensically excavated, and for remains to be exhumed and identified.

The Minister for Children has ruled out redress to survivors until after the Commission concludes its work.

Sunday Independent

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