You’ll recall how a working group set up by the Department of Justice last August to look at reforming the direct provision system – and from which the CEO of the Irish Refugee Council Sue Conlan resigned in March – is due to deliver its report at the end of this month.
This morning, Kitty Holland, in the Irish Times, reports:
“The report will recommend these [asylees’ welfare payments] be increased to €38.74 per week for adults and €29.80 for children. This would bring the rates into line with supplementary welfare allowance rates when the fact asylum seekers in direct provision are provided with food and accommodation is taken into account.”
Readers may recall in September 2014, the RTÉ Radio One journalist, Brian O’Connell, did a series of interviews with female asylum seekers – some teenagers – who talked about engaging in prostitution in order to supplement their weekly stipend of €19.10/€9.60 a week.
After the interviews Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said she’d be seeking a report on this specific matter stating: ‘I will certainly be asking for a report and I would ask that anyone with information to make it available to the Gardaí.’
Was that specific report ever carried out? Or was it subsumed into this working group report?”
Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has released a report into her investigation of a complaint made by a female asylum seeking mother in relation to the non-payment of supplementary welfare allowance by the HSE.
The story goes back to 2007 when Ms Kileni (not her real name) came to Ireland with her two daughters as asylum seekers, after her husband was murdered in South Africa.
They were placed in Direct Provision accommodation in Mayo. Their Direct Provision accommodation was a four-bedroomed house.
Ms Kileni and her daughters shared one bedroom while three other families shared the three other bedrooms.
In August 2008, they left the accommodation to live with a friend in Dublin because the medical services she needed for her daughter, whose mental health was deteriorating, were only available in Dublin.
The 15-year-old girl had attempted suicide at the centre and was subsequently hospitalised. After she was discharged, she was placed in foster care on a voluntary basis.
In November 2008, Ms Kileni applied for Supplementary Welfare Allowance but her application was refused. (SWA consists of a basic payment and/or a supplement to cover certain expenses a person may not be able to meet. The main purpose of the allowance is to guarantee a standard basic minimum income).
Ms Kileni appealed the decision to the HSE, but was again refused.
She then appealed to the Social Welfare Appeals Office, which prompted an oral hearing in June 2009.
In December 2009, the Appeals Officer allowed Ms Kileni’s appeal and the officer issued a statement on her decision which gave details of the exceptional medical and social circumstances of the case.
But, the relevant Superintendent Community Welfare Officer (who would have paid out the supplementary welfare allowance) queried the outcome.
Despite the responses from the Appeals Officer confirming her decision, and despite the fact Ms Kileni was not living in Direct Provision accommodation, the welfare officer would only pay Ms Kileni the rate of €19.10 per week for herself and €9.60 per week for the daughter then living with her – rates payable to asylum seekers living in Direct Provision.
Ms Kileni, tried to resolve the matter with the HSE before taking her complaint to the Ombudsman but was unsuccessful.
Ms O’Reilly added:
“An obvious consequence was extreme impoverishment for both Ms Kileni and her eldest daughter (a Leaving Certificate student at the time). Another, far-reaching consequence was that the failure to provide the family with an income meant it was not possible for Ms. Kileni’s daughter, who was in foster care, to be re-united with her family.
This was an outcome which the HSE social workers involved in the girl’s care had anticipated as a result of the Appeals Officer’s decision to award the full-rate SWA to Ms Kileni. The failure to implement the Appeals Officer’s decision, and the emotional and financial instability for the family which resulted from that failure, upset these plans.”
The HSE accepted Ms O’Reilly’s findings and agreed to pay the woman arrears of €11,882, and a “time and trouble” payment of €3,000.
These arrears were paid to Ms Kileni in January 2011
– 26 months after her SWA application,
– 13 months after the success of her appeal, and
– nine months after she had complained to the Ombudsman.
On May 5, the Sunday Independent reported how the original allegations made by the penalty points’ whistleblowers included details that some motorists, who were involved in fatal accidents, had penalty points quashed both before and after the fatal accidents.
However, today’s report into the allegations have found that this was not the case.
“The garda report into the quashing of penalty points has found that a number of officers did not follow proper procedures and guidelines.
Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has confirmed that penalty points were not cancelled for motorists who had previously been involved in fatal road traffic incidents.”
“The report is due to be published by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter this afternoon.”
“Those who had penalty points cancelled, and the gardaí involved, will not be identified.”
“The report also found no evidence of garda corruption or widespread abuse of garda discretion and concluded that no gardaí gained financially or otherwise because of their actions.”
“Disciplinary proceedings are being taken against a small number of superintendents and inspectors.”
The husband of Savita Halappanavar is not satisfied with the conclusions of the final draft HSE report into her death, his solicitor Gerard O’Donnell has said.
The final draft report of the investigation team chaired by Prof Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, head of obstetrics and gynaecology at St George’s Hospital, University of London, was given to Praveen Halappanavar on Friday.
Mr O’Donnell said his client had instructed him to seek a meeting with Prof Arulkumaran later this week to outline his concerns.
“It’s a report trying to establish what happened without naming anybody. So from Praveen’s point of view he wants to find out why this happened, why she was not treated, why she did not get treated.”
“The report was given to Gerard O’Donnell this morning by Tony Canavan, the chief operating officer of the HSE’s Galway-Roscommon Hospital Group. Praveen Halappanavar was not present as he has declined the HSE’s request to receive the report personally from the executive’s representative. Mr Halappanavar and his solicitor will review the report and decide if they wish to make any observations on it to the HSE review ream, before the final report is published.”
The many defenders of the report maintain that Martin McAleese did the best job he could, given the very narrow remit he was handed by the government.
Namely to investigate the extent of state involvement in the running of the laundries
But Mr McAleese frequently went outside his remit.
And not to the benefit of the women who worked in the laundries.
His remit-breaching culminated in Chapter 19, entitled Living and Working Conditions, which has three strands – testimonies from the women who lived there, the religious orders who ran the laundries and others who would have witnessed the workings of the laundries, such as visiting doctors, priests, etc.
While Mr McAleese was under no obligation to carry out any of this work, what’s intriguing is what material ended up in Chapter 19.
The Justice for Magdalenes group carried out exhaustive research and gathered testimonies from the women, which ran to 800 pages (above).
But these lengthy first-hand accounts [see section at end of post], which included allegations of cruel mistreatment were not included in the report. Instead, there are quotations from survivors claiming no physical abuse took place at the laundries.
Chapter 19’s testimonies from those who witnessed the workings of the laundries also spoke relatively well of the laundries, while the less-favourable testimonies gathered by the JFM group were not included.
So why haven’t these women’s stories been published?
And of the testimonies it took It seems the Committee felt there was information circulating about the laundries which was factually unverified and took it upon itself to correct this based on the information which had come before it in the course of its work.
This was despite the fact that the information in question had not been compiled as part of a proper investigation into living and working conditions but rather in the context of giving women who wanted to share their stories a voice as outlined above.
It appears that the women who wished to tell their stories were those who voluntarily approached the Committee or were put forward by interest groups.
There is no reference to there having been any attempt on the part of the Committee to request stories from women in the laundries generally.
In the absence of this, presumably many women in the laundries would not have known of the facility to contact the Committee and tell their story about life within the laundry (particularly as the Committee’s official remit was confined to State involvement).
The Committee acknowledges that its investigation into conditions within the laundry is a story-telling exercise and incomplete and it says that, because of this, it is not going to make formal findings of fact.
However, in Chp 19, it does make formal findings of fact in particular that stated above, namely that life in the laundry was not as bad as life in reformatory schools and that the factual evidence before it contradicted other accounts of life in the laundry.
If these are not findings of fact, what are?
In addition, although Chp 2 and Chp 19 justify inclusion of living and working conditions on the basis of the entitlement of women to have their stories told and recorded by far the greater weight in Chp 19 is given to the stories of others, some of whom had very limited involvement with the laundry e.g. a novice who spent a week there and GPs and charity workers who visited very occasionally and were not there on a day-to-day basis.
Some of these people are named and some are not named and there is no indication in either Chp 2 or Chp 19 as to why some are named and some are not named.