In a positive development for survivors of mother and baby homes, the Oireachtas Children’s Committee has published its recommendations for amendments to the planned redress scheme in its report on Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of the Mother and Baby Institutions Payment Scheme Bill 2022.
Specifically, the Committee advised the Government to remove the six-month time limit. Under this rule, only children who spent over six months in a home could recover compensation under the scheme. The limitation, which has been criticised as arbitrary and unfair since the scheme was first announced, does not apply to mothers in the institutions.
The Committee recommended the legal waiver in the scheme be scrapped as well. The waiver would prevent those who benefit from the scheme from taking legal action in the future.
The report also considered those who had been boarded out as a precursor to fostering, whom the Committee recommended should also be included in the scheme. Under the proposed amendments, religious institutions would also be compelled to contribute significant funds to the scheme to boost the compensation for survivors.
Norman Spicer, the leading solicitor on the Mother and Baby Home team at Coleman Legal LLP, believes the recommendations are a reason for cautious optimism. The firm welcomes the recommendations which could transform the scheme for its approximate 600 mother and baby home clients. However, if the amendments are not accepted by the Government, the survivors will pursue further legal action. Spicer cites the report as an opportunity to improve the scheme despite the Government previously ruling out making any changes to the present format. The Oireachtas is expected to pass the final Bill later in the year.
Coleman Legal has already launched proceedings in two test cases, taken by survivors who spent under six months in a home and multiple cases involving those in institutions excluded from the scheme. Proceedings are being paused until the Bill has been finalised, but if the scheme is not extended to include these survivors, the cases will proceed. Spicer noted in Coleman Legal’s submission to the Committee that “considerable upset and distress has been caused by the announcement that adoptees or child residents of these institutions have been excluded arbitrarily on the basis that many spent less than six months there”.
“This exclusion has only served to alienate the adoptee community and operates as a rejection of their suffering and their experiences.
This decision is entirely without justification and does not appear to have any scientific basis nor is it in keeping with known psychological principles,” he added. Spicer also called for the additional institutions, currently excluded, to be incorporated into the scheme.
A spokesperson for Roderic O’Gorman has stated that the Minister will carefully consider the recommendations during the ongoing drafting process.
The Department of Children has also confirmed that ongoing negotiations are being held with various religious organisations to discuss how they may contribute to the scheme.
The content of these meetings is being treated as confidential; however, a full report on the discussions will be prepared for Government when they conclude.
Survivors have previously taken action against the Government for the mishandling of testimony by the Commission of Investigation in 2021.
It was accepted that the State had breached the plaintiff’s rights when it failed to provide a draft of the final report before its publication, preventing the survivors from making corrections relating to their evidence.
The settlement covered eight different cases and included payment of the plaintiffs’ legal fees. An acknowledgment of the breach of the right was published with the final report.
Derek Leinster, a survivor of the Bethany Home, a Protestant institution, is also in the process of taking proceedings against the State. He has campaigned for over two decades for survivors of Protestant institutions to receive redress.
Coleman Legal is supporting those affected by advising in relation to the recently announced Mother and Baby Home Payment Scheme. We will be gathering our client’s information now and submitting applications once the Scheme opens. To speak with one of our mother and baby homes redress solicitors, contact Norman Spicer or Susan Hannon or call (Free Phone) 1800 844 104