IRISH Survivors in Britain will have a voice in Ireland for the first time in deciding how a £100million fund should be spent to meet their needs.
Following months of uncertainty about the make-up of the board responsible for distributing the new Residential Institutions Statutory Fund, Ireland’s Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn, revealed that two of its four Survivor members are based in Britain.
“At long last Survivors over here will have a voice,” said Phyllis Morgan, one of the British-based appointees. “Over the last 10 years, we were never getting as much funding as they were getting in Ireland even though we have the same number of Survivors over here.”
Ms Morgan, who has been heavily involved in providing welfare services to Survivors around the country over the past decade, added: “I always felt like we were trying to deliver a service without enough money.”
The Statutory Fund replaces the Redress Board, which was established in 2002, and is only open to the Redress Board’s 15,000 claimants, one third of which were based in Britain. Unlike the Redress Board, a compensation scheme that paid lump sums to Survivors, the Statutory Fund can only award funding to Survivors that will be used to pay for approved welfare services, including health, education and housing services.
The Minister’s appointment of the board, which also includes a chairperson and four non-Survivor members, means that distribution of the €110million (£94million) Statutory Fund can begin.
The Fund’s board met for the first time in March. It served as an introduction between Ms Morgan and Martin Power, a Manchester-based social worker, who are now responsible for representing the interests of thousands of Survivors scattered around Britain.
Ms Morgan told The Irish Post that her first priority is to ensure that the Survivor outreach services run by the London Irish Centre, the Coventry Irish Society and Irish Community Care Manchester receive enough funding to continue operating.
The Dubliner added that she hopes the board can agree to fund new programmes in Britain. “I am sure there are lots of Irish Survivors in Liverpool, for example, and they are completely not getting a service” she said.
Simon McCarthy, whose Survivor outreach programme in Coventry supports 450 people, welcomed the appointment of Ms Morgan and the creation of the Fund after an eight-month wait. But he said he does not know whether his service, which has been funded directly by Ireland’s Department of Education on a quarterly basis since early 2012, will be eligible for funding from the Fund.
“The thing is that I cannot see why they would fund a project like ours because people will get really upset if they do not fund it because we have built up such a strong relationship between everyone in the group,” he said. “It is like a big family and they want stuff to continue.”
Mr McCarthy added that he expects his team to be “busier than ever” in the coming weeks as Survivors enquire about whether or not they are eligible for a grant from the Fund.
Ann Bohan, who runs the Manchester programme, was surprised by the announcement of the board and says her service’s funding will expire at the end of March.
“But I would not say we are in limbo because this has been coming for a long time,” she added. “And we have not been told that we will lose our funding.”
Leading campaigner Sally Mulready, who runs the Irish Women’s Survivors Network, called on the leaders of Irish welfare organisations around the country to find out how they can apply for a grant from the Fund to offer support to the Survivors in their area.
“This is not about funding Coventry, or London or Manchester. They are three small outreach services that could not possibly hope to service the 5,000 people who are eligible to apply,” she said. “This is about starting to engage the Irish community across the board so that every Irish welfare agency is involved in helping Survivors.”
Ms Mulready added that the existing organisations will need to make themselves “more relevant” to the Fund to ensure that it is within the remit of the Fund to support what they offer.
Announcing the appointment of the Statutory Fund’s board, Minister Quinn said: ““The establishment of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board represents a critically important step in responding to the needs of those who were subjected to horrendous abuse while children in residential institutions.”
He added: “While the tasks facing the Fund are significant, I am confident that it will make a meaningful contribution to the wellbeing of the survivors of institutional abuse.”
Mr Quinn also revealed that Mary Higgins, who has previously worked with Survivors in Britain, will be the chief executive of the Fund’s board.