MOTHER AND BABY REDRESS SCHEME: ELIGIBILITY AND EXCLUSIONS

Mother and Baby Institutions Redress Scheme Ireland

The Mother and Baby Institutions Redress Scheme has been approved by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (“the Department”). The Scheme will include all children who were in Mother and Baby Institutions for more than six months. Those who are not eligible include children who were ‘boarded out’  and children resident in Mother and Baby Institutions for less than six months. The Scheme in its current format was approved following a consultation process in March and April 2021 with survivors, their families, representatives/advocates and other interested parties in relation to what ought to be included in the scheme.  An Interdepartmental Group (IDG) was established to take into account the recommendations made by the Commission of Investigation (“the commission”) which were previously outlined in the Commission’s final report published in January 2021. The Interdepartmental Group stresses that although it took into account the recommendations made by the Commission of Investigation, it was not limited by these recommendations when considering those eligible under the scheme. The scheme will not be available until legislation has been passed which will give the scheme a statutory footing.

Who is eligible for redress under the scheme?

The report published in January 2021 of this year recommended that any women who entered any Mother and Baby Institutions after 1973 did not have a case for financial redress. This recommendation was made by the Commission of Investigation in view of the fact that the unmarried mothers’ allowance which was introduced by virtue of Section 8 of the Social Welfare Act 1973 and provided financial assistance for “unmarried mothers”. The Interdepartmental Group has not followed this recommendation and noted the following: – “There has been much criticism of the use by the Commission of a 1974 cut-off point related to Unmarried Mothers’ Allowance, particularly in relation to the years immediately after the introduction of this allowance where the circumstances for these women, in reality, may not have been much different to that pre-1974. The Commission acknowledged that attitudes changed slowly and access to accommodation, in particular, remained a serious difficulty for mothers until the 1980s.” Therefore, the Interdepartmental Group has not followed the 1974 cut-off point recommended by the commission and stated that all mothers who entered a Mother and Baby Institution will be eligible for financial redress. In addition to a general payment to be made to all mothers who spent time in a Mother and Baby institution, there will be a work payment for those who carried out commercial work in certain instances. The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth’s document entitled “Mother and Baby Institutions Payment Scheme Questions and Answers” states that those eligible for the work-related payment include “pregnant or unmarried mothers” who were resident in a County Home, Tuam Mother and Baby Home or were otherwise required to undertake ‘commercial work’ without pay outside the grounds of a Mother and Baby Institution while resident for more than three months.

The Interdepartmental Group has also stated that any person under the age of 18 who resided in a Mother and Baby Institution for a period in excess of six months will also be eligible under the scheme. The Commission had previously made a distinction between those children who were accompanied and those who were not. In the course of consulting with survivors from the Mother and Baby Institutions and report published entitled the OAK report of the findings of the Consultation with Survivors of Mother and Baby Homes and County Homes”, it was noted that even in cases were children were “accompanied” by their mothers in the homes, “their mothers were not permitted to reside with their children and only saw them at feeding times and when other care duties were required. Thus, both mother and child suffered from the lack of opportunities to create the critical mother/child relationship which has caused trauma in so many lives of these survivors”. In view of the consultations findings, the Interdepartmental Group has included any child who was proved to reside in a Mother and Baby Institutions for a period in excess of six months.

Who is not eligible for redress under the scheme?

The scheme will exclude all children who were resident as children in a Mother and Baby or County Home for less than six months. Furthermore, the Interdepartmental Group has stated that children who were boarded out will not be eligible for redress under the scheme either. The Interdepartmental Group acknowledged “the severe and extremely distressing abuse experienced by some of these children. This included neglect, physical and emotional and in some cases sexual abuse”, however the Interdepartmental Group has stated that an “individualised approach in relation to boarded out children goes far beyond Mother and Baby or County Home Institutions, with many boarded out children never having spent time in these particular institutions”. It is of note that children who were ‘boarded out’ were children placed in foster care by local authorities as outlined in greater detail in the report prepared by Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation which was published in January 2021. The legislation governing the responsibilities of the Board of Health towards children who were ‘boarded out’ was provided for under the County Boards of Health (Assistance) Order 1924 and later under the Health Act 1953. This legislation placed an obligation upon the Health Board to “visit the child once at least in every month, and also when any special occasion shall arise for visiting it, and to report in writing immediately thereafter to the Board of Health on its health, cleanliness, and treatment, together with such other particulars as the Board of Health shall at any time require”. Further regulations commenced in 1954 (The Boarding Out of Children Regulations 1954) allowed for the removal of a child from a home and also introduced a written contract between the Health Authority and a foster parent. However, in the course of the consultation process it was acknowledged that in reality those boarded out were not adequately supervised, specifically the report entitled the “OAK report of the findings of the Consultation with Survivors of Mother and Baby Homes and County Homes” noted the following:

“The harm caused by lack of proper vetting and lack of supervision of adoptive families, including for those fostered or boarded out was another issue for which reparation was widely identified. Harrowing accounts of children being physically, sexually and psychologically abused in these situations were recounted resulting in long term mental and physical health consequences”

Insofar as the commission previously acknowledged that the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme which applied to children under the age of 18 and was comparable for the purposes of establishing a redress scheme for children who were resident in both the county homes and the mother and baby homes for extended periods, it is notable that the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002 which placed the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme on a statutory footing, provided for a wide definition of abuse. Abuse under the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002, included a “failure to care for the child which results in serious impairment of the physical or mental health or development of the child or serious adverse effects on his or her behaviour or welfare, or any other act or omission towards the child which results in serious impairment of the physical or mental health or development of the child or serious adverse effects on his or her behaviour or welfare”. It is arguable that this wide definition of abuse would encompass a child who was boarded out and subjected to harm which was caused ‘by lack of proper vetting and lack of supervision’ in breach of the statutory duties placed upon the Health Board at that time. However, in this instance the Mother and Baby Institutions Scheme does not appear to be providing for a wide definition of abuse as was previously provided for under the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme and therefore have excluded children who were ‘boarded out’.

Mother and Baby Institutions: Redress & Financial Provisions

The document entitled the “Mother and Baby Institutions Payment Scheme” contains a table which is re-produced below for ease of reference:

Spent in a Mother and Baby or County Home Institution General Payment for mothers and children

Work Payment (for mothers who qualify only)

Total Amount if qualifying for general payment and work payment

Less than 3 months (mothers only) 5,000 0 5,000
Between 3 and 6 months (mothers only) 10,000 1,500 11,500
Between 6 months and 1 Year 12,500 3,000 15,500
Over 1 Year 15,000 6,000 21,000
Between 6 months and 1 Year 12,500 3,000 15,500
Over 1 Year 15,000 6,000 21,000
Over 2 Years 20,000 12,000 32,000
Over 3 Years 25,000 18,000 43,000
Over 4 Years 30,000 24,000 54,000
Over 5 Years 40,000 30,000 70,000
Over 6 Years 45,000 36,000 81,000
Over 7 Years 50,000 42,000 92,000
Over 8 Years 55,000 48,000 103,000
Over 9 Years 60,000 54,000 114,000
Over 10 Years + (MAX) 65,000 60,000 125,000

The Scheme will also provide for a form of “enhanced medical card” to all those who were resident in a Mother and Baby Institution for six months or more. The above matters which are discussed in more detail are also included in the Interdepartmental Group’s report entitled the “Report of the Interdepartmental Group (IDG) on the development of the Mother and Baby Payment Scheme (November 2021). Anyone wishing to read the report can do so by visiting www.gov.ie. Should you wish to discuss any of the above matters, please get in touch by contacting us at (01) 833 8147 or alternatively you can email us at info@collierlaw.ie. Telephone and Video Call consultations are available by appointment.