SILENT TREATMENT: Frustration among institutional abuse survivors waiting months for Government response

SILENT TREATMENT: Frustration among institutional abuse survivors waiting months for Government response

SURVIVORS of Ireland’s brutal industrial schools have been waiting more than 10 months for a response from the Government to submissions made regarding their needs.

In early 2020 the Government, through the Department of Education, asked active survivor groups to compile a submission that would show the current and realistic needs of survivors.

Tom Cronin, a survivor advocate and member of the The Alliance Support Group, which represents victims of Ireland’s state-run schools, was among those who took part.

This week he revealed to The Irish Post, that the final submission, sent in December 2020, has yet to be acknowledged by the Government.

“To help us [make this submission] the Government also appointed two facilitators,” he explained.

“A Consultation Group was established under the name of “Survivors of Residential Institutional Abuse” (SRIA) and work began by bringing together this group, with all of their knowledge, experiences in working for and with Survivors, knowledge of past and current needs of survivors and crucially, current numbers (as accurately as was possible) seeking help and support.”

He added: “This representative group worked tirelessly through the Covid-19 period, having first mastered the skills of Zoom meetings and with the knowledge that their efforts, once submitted to Government, would be acknowledged and respected in a serious attempt to finally agree a mechanism to ensure a better quality of life for all Survivors.

“Sadly, our survivor numbers are now declining in all areas and regions while we, the representative groups, still await a response from the Government from last December.”

Mr Cronin claims they have yet to hear anything from Government, or the Department of Education, who have also been involved with the project.

“We also had a Zoom meeting with the Minister for Education and her officials during 2020, as part of the process, which was well received,” he explained.

“In December 2020 we submitted an agreed comprehensive proposal to Government, but silence has been their acknowledgement,” he confirmed.

“To date, we have not heard a word from Government or the Department of Education.

“It has been very frustrating for those of us representing survivors, who rightly had an expectation of reply and response only to be ignored again and again.

“This disgraceful behaviour is reminiscent of how survivors were treated in the past and shows a cold, dismissive and disinterested attitude again, despite the Government requesting this work.

“It was, after all, their mismanagement, their abuses, their failures in our earlier lives that continues to trouble and haunt so many former survivors throughout their lives, but in particularly now when most are old, frail, many isolated and alone.”

For Mr Cronin time is of the essence for many survivors and the group formed last year remains as committed as ever to their campaign to secure the services they need now.

“We would wish to move these efforts for survivors forward now,” Mr Cronin explained, “time is very important to us and we remain ready to meet with Government and other Agencies now to do so.”

He added: “The group, Survivors of Residential Institutional Abuse, remain committed to the work we undertook together.

“We value the commitment shown by everybody and the survivors themselves, who, though greatly disappointed by the lack of respect shown to them, want us to continue.

“We have pledged to do so in their names.”

When contacted by The Irish Post, a spokesperson for the Department of Education said: "The Department recognises that the voices of survivors are critical when considering future supports and services.

"With this in mind, a survivor-led consultation group was established during 2020 to engage in Phase 2 of a consultation process with survivors of residential institutions.

"The terms of reference for this group were to input into the work of the inter-departmental group established by Government to identify mainstream services which will continue to support former survivors of the residential institutions, to identify specific barriers/difficulties encountered by survivors with mainstream services and how these can be overcome and to consider whether those services can be accessed easily by survivors."

They added: "This phase was facilitated by professionally qualified facilitators who were funded by the Department.

"The group has met on a regular basis while officials from the Department have continued to engage with the facilitators on all aspects of the process.

"The Minister also met with the group in December 2020 to personally engage with survivors in Ireland and the UK and to hear directly from them.

"The Phase 2 report was submitted earlier this year and its findings are now being considered by Department and the inter-departmental group alongside other submissions received from survivor groups in respect of this issue."