On Tuesday 16th November, the Government announced a new financial redress scheme for survivors of Mother and Baby Homes.
The scheme, which Minister for Children Roderick O’Gorman has advised is the largest in the history of the State, will be applicable to 34,000 former residents of the Mother and baby Homes with a total value of €800 million.
All mothers who spent time in the homes are eligible, while people who were resident in the Homes as children must have been resident for at least six months.
Redress payments will be made on a scale depending on time spent in the Homes and the work they participated in while resident in the Homes. Mothers who resided in a Mother and Baby Home for less than three months would be eligible for a payment of €5,000; while at the other end of the scale, mothers who spent more than 10 years in a Mother and Baby Home would be entitled to a payment of €65,000.
A separate scheme for those who were forced to work while resident in the Mother and Baby Homes was also established, with payments ranging between €1,500 and €60,000. The maximum payment any individual could receive under the combined schemes is €125,000.
Minister O’Gorman also confirmed that anyone who spent more than six months in a Mother and Baby Home would be eligible to receive an enhanced medical card.
Survivors living overseas will qualify for redress on the same terms as current Irish residents, with a choice of receiving either an enhanced medical card or a once-off payment in lieu.
The Redress Scheme was established following the publication of the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes which was published on the 12th January 2021, which recommended the establishment of such a scheme.
When announcing the Scheme, Minister O’Gorman said that “There is no payment or measure that can ever fully compensate or atone for the harm done through the Mother and Baby institutions. What we have set out today is the next chapter in the State’s response to the legacy of those institutions, and its commitment to rebuilding the trust it so grievously shattered”.
Unlike previous schemes, such as payments made by the Residential Institutions Redress Board, anyone who receives redress under the Mother and Baby Home Redress Scheme won’t be required to keep silent about their experiences in the institutions after they receive a payment. Former residents will qualify for payment based on proof of residency alone and they will not need to show evidence of any abuse. They will, however, be required to sign a legal waiver confirming that they won’t pursue legal action against the State after receiving redress under the Scheme. There may also be certain limited circumstances in which sworn affidavits are required.
While most elements of the Scheme have been welcomed, the requirement that children must have spent six months resident in a Mother and Baby Home in order to be eligible for payment has been criticised on the basis that it would exclude many people who were adopted from the Homes shortly after their birth.
It is estimated that the Scheme will be operational by late 2022.
About the author: Avril Scally, Solicitor