Opinion Piece - Are Survivors being Short-Changed?

When you review the care for Survivors of Institutional Abuse you will see very clearly why Survivors find it difficult to complete their journey of healing. They have been given half measures, half-truths and no long-term recognition for their suffering. Plasters have been used to fix wounds;

Redress – no speaking about it!

Healthcare – No mention of it!

Pensions – No agreement!

Caranua – Just ‘till the money runs out!

Heart-breaking, yet courageous.
Recent conversations surrounding Caranua and their supports have been difficult to listen too.

As somebody who cares about the wellbeing and the future of Survivors of Institutional Abuse and their families; One could not help but feel angry, heartbroken and dismayed at people’s experiences, but equally proud of every individual who had the courage to step forward; both positive and negative.
One of the biggest issues raised was the introduction of a cap on services of €15,000.

This is something that we argued should have never been introduced. It is something we advised would be construed as being unfair to Survivors and counterproductive in supporting their needs. We said that the money should not be the issue, but individual needs should be.

Changing the conversation from one of need to one of money creates a misunderstanding of the types of support each individual requires and ignores the varying stages of healing Survivors are on.

We have helped many Survivors apply for Caranua and some, even before the introduction of the cap, could improve their lives with very small interventions. On the other side, some needed a lot of support and that ultimately is all the conversation should be about – what needs does each individual have, not how much money it is costing.

Survivors had a childhood of being reduced to numbers, I don’t think their adulthood should be reduced to the same.

If it’s good enough for some, it should be good for others
Equally in this conversation the one thing that wasn’t discussed or even viewed was this simple fact;

The legislation that governs the Medical aspect of Caranua is verbatim the legislation used in the Health Amendment Act. If you don‘t believe me, check it out!

The Health Amendment Act gave an enhanced version of the normal medical card to certain individuals who had their lives impacted by the State and we would (and will be) arguing that if the state recognises Survivors need this – this should be provided permanently, separate from Caranua. As mentioned earlier, the days of offering a plaster to fill a wound should be finished.

Similarly, Magdalene Laundry Survivors received a version of an enhanced medical card for their suffering in a state institution, why are survivors only been given it for possibly two more years?

This is something that should be immediately offered to Survivors.

Imagine being told, with little to no paper work you will only wait two weeks for a scan or an operation, your prescriptions will be free and a lot of other types of treatment will be too.

By doing this you will give Survivors lifelong recognition for their sufferings, but also stop Caranua offering this service and immediately save the fund upwards of €10 million per year. This would allow Caranua to, at the very minimum, either increase the cap or remove it all together.

Ministers Review
The Ministers review into the eligibility of Caranua was due to take place two years ago. We argued that children of Survivors were being forgotten, so the Minister assured us this would be reviewed after two years. FOUR years later we were finally informed that the Terms of Reference for this review were being released and we had an opportunity to make a submission.

The fact these Terms of Reference were released at a similar time as the discussion around the Mother and Baby homes and the Grace case Terms of reference were unfortunate as it took the eye off them – but we never lost sight.

However, two years late was not good enough to simply review the eligibility, so we requested that the whole of Caranua be reviewed to include these main items;
The waiting times, the introduction of a cap, the prioritising of new applicants, if there is being any work done to leave a lasting impact and whether Survivors children can apply.

We said there needs to be a definitive time frame on when this review is completed and at all stages, evidences and what reasons they make a decision should be published.

Imparting our knowledge to bring about change
So, our role in this is clear. Caranua, in its current state is not fit to represent and support the needs of Survivors of Institutional Abuse.
We have argued that the best course of action was to make a clear submission to the Department on the Terms of Reference so that an expedited and thorough review, could help bring about change to include legislative amendments alongside changing Caranua services.
This should be coupled with an enhanced medical card offering to Survivors, access to existing Liaison officers (for other vulnerable groups) in Housing and Welfare alongside the Caranua review.

There is no better way of saying we recognise the disadvantages you suffer from, then offering complete wrap around care and support for the remainder of Survivors lives.

Equality and my generation
I continue to ask myself, Is this an Ireland I want to grow up in, to raise my kids in?! Until such a time as there is equality for all and not just certain sections of its citizens, it’s not my Ireland.

Time to stop saying it was a previous generations fault – because this generation certainly isn’t learning and supporting.

To all Survivors, we say watch this journey, follow us on it and support us where you can. Our requests and our submissions are clear and obvious – The long term care of Survivors must be paramount, Caranua needs a robust an open review and that support for the rest of your life is what we are looking for.

It is the least you deserve!

Yours in Support,

Micheál - Director of Services