RISN Consultation Talks delayed until capacity estimates ensure the welfare and safety of survivor participation

RISN has attempted to expedite matters in the most efficient and effective manner.

Negotiations between RISN and the Department of Education on the 4th December 2017 made little progress following concerns RISN raised concerning an offer of a number of consultation talks. We promised to provide our review of the number of consultation talks on the 5thDecember which we did. This was clarified on the 8th December in a call with the Department of Education.

We could not reach that Department official thereafter unfortunately. In two subsequent calls, RISN raised concerns on capacity planning in respect of how the Department estimated the number of consultation talks. RISN pointed out that it was crucial to obtain capacity estimates on the proposed talks so they could and would be managed and conducted properly with due regard to participants who were made up of the most injured community in the Irish State, not to put too fine a point on it. Try as we might to obtain any capacity estimations for the consultation talks, there was a resolute reiteration on the number of consultations rather than any engagement on the capacity estimate planning which the task required.

RISN repeatedly sought from the Department how they estimated capacity per consultation talk. This was of considerable concern to us survivors. Based on the principle of non-discrimination and inclusion declared at the 4th December meeting, we provided our position based on potential capacity as a result of three known indicators covering the 143 institutions scattered around the 32 counties:

  1. 10% to 15% participation of the known population of residential institution survivors in redress,
  2. the numbers who engaged in RISF applications through Caranua
  3. and previous CICA indicators of a survivor willingness to engage in voluntary data gathering

RISN tried to present the relevance of these but was denied any direct contact from 8th December. It appeared as though we ought to be grateful, which we were, but RISN required far more detailed planning on how estimates on the numbers of survivors envisaged in attending any particular consultation talk.

Our intelligence at RISN showed that there was no logic behind picking any number from the air in respect of the number of consultation talks. Nor was it a process that could necessarily be back ended in tagging on a number of extra consultation talks without potentially causing considerable distress to the survivor participant population already wary and weary of State engagement experiences.

With a history from the tortuously abusive childhood in residential institutions; to a redress board which was otherwise called the re-abuse board; to the actual focus of and need for the consultation talks which was the abuse, hurt and injury caused to residential institutional survivors through application for residential institutional survivor funds administered by Caranua. Indeed, roughly 13% of the number who applied in the redress scheme were willing to engage with Caranua. Perhaps potential applicants were just incapable or dissuaded from attempting to engage with Caranua because it was surrounded by a level of public outcry which terrified them.

Failing to discuss the issue of capacity per consultation talk was and is not a risk we at RISN were or are prepared to take with residential institutional survivors who in many cases have been treated appallingly at their every engagement with the State. We held that there must be better planning and estimate management required or the potential outcome in any lack of capacity estimation planning would or could hugely distress participants who weren’t planned for.


There are approximately 2,000 willing survivors who engaged with Caranua in over 6,000 applications. The figure of 2,000 represents approximately 13% of the total redress population of 15,500 where all redress survivors must be allowed to participate, though all will never engage. We know that the proportionate survivor engagement who pursued legal action to non-legal engagement is roughly 2 to 1 for non-legal account of experiences. The estimate of these, allowing for a 10% to 15% willingness to engage in consultation talks, might be 2,000, comprising some of those who availed of Caranua and some who did not, but were entitled to. If they didn’t engage with Caranua, we need to allow them tell us why in the data gathering exercise.

Without some consideration of capacity, there remained a huge potential for negative impact in the form of disappointment, non-inclusion, denied participation, feelings of deception and being duped once again. How? Well if you fail to plan for capacity, any overrun will unfortunately mean some may not be able to be given time to voice their experiences, interests or concerns defeating the purpose of the exercise. It is not an option to plan and gather this most vulnerable survivor group and turn them away or expect that they might come back another day to try again.

We know from the ‘Connecting for Life’ mental health plan 2015-2020, launched by former Taoiseach Enda Kenny on 24th June 2015, that our survivor population is noted as a priority vulnerable group in the plan’s listings. We know that over 60% of those turning up on the Self-Harming Register in our Accident and Emergency services are survivors of child sexual abuse. We know that survivors of childhood sexual abuse are 13 to 14 times more likely to suicide than the general population. We know that a significant number of redress participants despite winning their cases went on to suicide some with extraordinary clustering. Therefore, from what we know we ought to apply as much intelligence in our planning for consultation talks which are not served by plucking a figure out of the air. The capacity of any talks must review what we know and extrapolate from there what ought to be done, and done safely.

The issue of how capacity planning is not only essential but vital in the interests of safety in gathering such a known vulnerable population to consultation talks.

The number of talks is a function of capacity, and if you don’t plan for capacity even at a low estimate of between 10% to 15% participation then the outcome could not be vouched safe and RISN was not prepared to run such risks where capacity was not discussed and planned for in the task at hand.

Because the Department of Education was not prepared to review the number of consultation talks, RISN said it would be willing to agree to their number of talks but under the proviso that RISN would declare its misgivings in respect of any failure to conduct capacity planning estimates and the safeguarding of survivor participants.

As of Friday, 26th January, the Department of Education has agreed that more planning is needed around proper risk assessment of capacity issues.

There may have been unfortunate delays, however, the fullest consideration is called for in hosting, conducting and processing these proposed survivor consultation talks.

We at RISN hope to announce the very welcome news that our consultation talks will proceed as soon as possible. We hope we can make up the lost time since the 8th December 2017 in goodwill and proper planning.


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