Information sessions in Manchester and Leeds for mother and baby homes redress scheme

Taoiseach Micheal Martin in the Dail, presenting a state apology to the survivors of Mother and Baby Homes.

Irish Community Care Manchester and Leeds Irish Health and Homes, in partnership with Fréa, are both holding information events next week about the mother and baby and county homes redress scheme.

People are invited to attend whether they are former residents or not.

The Irish government’s Mother and Baby Homes Commission published their report in January last year, this has resulted in a redress scheme to be opened later this year.

Over 86,000 men and women are eligible for redress, many of whom are in Britain.

The information session will welcome former residents looking for support as well as health practitioners, care workers, charity and NGO staff, politicians and community activists.

The programme co-ordinator Maev McDaid and her colleague Patrick Rodgers from Irish Community Care Merseyside told The Irish World that they aim to be ready when the scheme opens later this year and that the community has a role to play in helping those affected.

The scheme is expected to open in the autumn but ICCM and community organisations like them are already working with survivors.

Maev said: “We’re just trying to make sure that we’re as prepared as possible because we suspect that once the government announces it, there’s going to be a real influx of people who will need our support to access the scheme.”

Members of the public pay their respects at the grounds where the unmarked mass grave containing the remains of nearly 800 infants who died at the Bon Secours mother-and-baby home in Tuam Co Galway.

Maev and Patrick travelled to London last week to meet with representatives from similar organisations to help ensure the approach is more uniform for survivors wherever they are in the country.

“It really is just about getting the message out there that there are organizations who can help former residents and survivors to access the redress.

“This event is not just for former residents.

“We really encourage people to come along, nobody has to disclose anything. It’s a totally anonymous kind of event.

“There’s no one size fits all, this is a huge task that we have to not only educate our own community, but the wider community as well, everybody’s got a role to play in building up their knowledge of what’s going on and our access to people who might be eligible and ensuring that that’s done as sensitively and as appropriately as possible.”

The proposed redress scheme has been criticised for excluding people, but there have been suggestions it could be widened to be more inclusive.

“They are changing, and they are listening to the wider community, ourselves included as advocates for former residents.

“We are having consultations with the embassy and the department to explore things that haven’t been considered because the whole redress scheme was built on the experiences of only those who stayed in Ireland.

“Obviously, what we’re finding working with people who emigrated is the medical card is no good to them because they live in Britain.

“So there is an open communication and things are being reflexive.

“Although things are still changing, or things aren’t necessarily clear, our role is very set and very clear that we’re here to support survivors and former residents.”

The redress scheme is expected to open between October and December.

Maev continues: “But even if that’s pushed back to January, we’re not going to sit around and wait.

“We’re ready. We’ve already started taking on clients to support them in different ways.

“And while the money aspect isn’t open, the information and access bill has already been passed, as well as the opportunity to receive funded counselling and therapy.

“There are still other ways that we have been helping people.”

Patrick adds: “The initial inquiries we are getting are from people would have read articles in The Irish World about it, and realised that there is some eligibility for it.

“They just want clarity, they just want to know, can they apply for it?

“We’ll give them a framework of what we know and the information that is out there at the moment, and we will look to offer support to them if they wish to go forward with application.”

While people may know about the redress scheme in the Irish community, Maev and Patrick say it is important to get the word out even more than that so eligible people don’t miss out.

Maev says: “There’s a lack of knowledge in general in Britain, which I think is a shame.

“And that’s something that moving forward, we want to make sure that we’re getting a very clear message out right across Britain, about the levels of support that we can offer.

“At the minute, it’s largely just kind of people who are already engaged with Irish community organizations, who are just kind of seeking clarification.

“But we’re also really keen to widen scope beyond Irish organizations because it may well be the case that for those who are eligible for this scheme, they may have stayed away from Irish organizations when they emigrated to Britain.

“That’s why we’re here, to help as many people as possible.”

Patrick adds: “And that’s why we feel these information sessions are so vital, because it is a great way of getting information out to both the Irish community and to healthcare workers who may work with isolated vulnerable Irish people.

“It is a good way of getting it out to politicians who may be involved, local councillors who may be involved with the Irish community.

“It’s an open invitation to people to attend both Manchester and Leeds because we feel without that basic level of communication from people, this opportunity may pass former residents by and we don’t want them to feel let down, that they find out too late.

Maev adds: “It is community practitioners, people who work with older people, maybe people who work with people who have dementia so people are as informed as possible about how they support survivors of potential institutional abuse.

“There are gonna be lots people who haven’t thought about this for 50 years as well.

“This really is on an individual needs basis where people can share with us exactly what it is that they want to get from us and we will definitely take a survivor centred approach in the type of provision that we will provide.

“Not everybody has to take therapy, not everybody has to take the things that are on offer, some people might simply need help filling out the form.

“They can get as much of it as they want or it can be directed by them, rather than us dictating the terms of how they engage with the service.”

Patrick adds: “The Irish community needs to be at the forefront of helping the most vulnerable people in our community.

“We should be offering them the best level of support possible and that is our aim.”

Irish Community Care Merseyside hold the information session at the Irish World Heritage Centre at 6.30pm on Wednesday 10 August.

For more information, email maev.mcdaid@irishcc.net or call 07432 138682.

Leeds Irish Health and Homes hold an information session at Leeds Irish Centre at 6.30pm on Thursday 11 August.

You can also click here.