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Victims 'Couldn't Say No' to Award

Industrial schools charity admits abused members gave in to cash lure of compensation

Irish Independent, 4 January 2006 Fergus Black

A CHARITY set up by former inmates to defend the reputation of industrial schools admitted yesterday that a majority of its members had succumbed to "financial lure" by claiming compensation for abuse.

More than 100 former residents from the schools formed the Let Our Voices Emerge (Love) group two years ago, claiming the State compensation awards scheme for abuse victims left carers from the institutions open to massive fraudulent allegations.

But last night, a co-founder of the charity claimed 80pc of its members had "given in" at the last minute by claiming compensation from the Residential Institutions Redress Board.

It was set up to make fair and reasonable awards to persons who, as children, were abused while resident in industrial schools, reformatories and other institutions subject to State regulation or inspection.

By the end of last month, 14,768 applications by former residents of State-run institutions were made to the board and the average payout was €76,500.

Love co-founder, Florence Horsman Hogan, said their support for those who worked so hard to care for people in grossly underfunded institutions remained firm. Former residents had formed the charity to claim that the State awarding of compensation for claims of child abuse based on a low level of proof left the carers open to massive fraudulent allegations against them, she said.

But how could anyone be expected to turn down the prospect of between €50,000 and €150,000 for truthfully claiming compensation for emotional or physical neglect, she asked.

"The guilt they felt was indescribable but the fact is, once they didn't lie or exaggerate, all inmates under the definition of abuse allowed by the Redress Board are entitled to claim.

"The solicitors advising them encouraged slight exaggerations as, we suppose, all compensation claims do; but we're proud to say none gave in."

Her group had always criticised the Government-initiated compensation programme because it was based on a very light burden of proof.

However, she said she was neither surprised nor disappointed that so many of the group's members had now sought compensation. They had sought compensation over the State's failure to deal with overcrowding and underfunding of the institutions and they did not blame or name the carers who looked after them.