Monday, July 08, 2024

Former mother and baby home resident alleges she was given wrong child at birth

Mother and baby home redress: Taoiseach ...

A former mother and baby home resident is suing the State over allegedly being given the wrong child at birth, a new report reveals.

The State Claims Agency (SCA) said the woman’s case, which is based on DNA testing of the now-adult child, is among 118 brought by ex-residents of mother and baby institutions that the agency was handling in late 2023.

A year earlier there were 150 such cases, which relate to time spent in the institutional settings between the 1940s and 1980s, the agency’s annual report states.

The Mother and Baby Institutions Payment Scheme was signed into law in July 2023 to provide payments and supports to eligible ex-residents, the SCA report notes.

“Mass action claims”, such as those from ex-residents of State institutions, represent 13 per cent of the 11,137 claims being managed by the SCA at the end of 2023.

The Irish Prison Service was facing 371 cases from current and former inmates alleging a lack of in-cell sanitation breached their constitutional rights. The SCA said there have been resolutions or withdrawals in 88 per cent of the 2,805 claims that follow on from the Supreme Court’s 2019 decision to award an ex-prisoner €7,500 damages over being forced to “slop out” in his cell.

At the end of 2023, the agency had been notified of 393 claims against the CervicalCheck screening programme. It said 244 of these have concluded. These cases include psychological injury claims by family members of women concerned.

By year-end there were 135 claims being pursued by members of the Defence Forces alleging various physical and psychological symptoms arose out of their ingestion of the anti-malarial prophylactic drug Lariam, which they were prescribed while on duty in sub-Saharan Africa.

The report also details that the expected bill for outstanding legal claims against the State has surpassed €5 billion for the first time.

The SCA said the number of cases it handles has reduced by 4 per cent over the last five years, but there has been a concurrent 43 per cent rise in the projected liability of the claims.

In 2019, it valued the 11,580 active claims at €3.63 billion, while the 11,137 live claims at the end of 2023 are expected to cost taxpayers €5.18 billion.

The high value of catastrophic injury claims is identified as the “key driver” behind the payout expectations, with these cases accounting for more than €3 billion of the anticipated liability.

Other factors mentioned are general inflation, significant mass actions, the increased life expectancy of claimants and the effects of a 2015 Court of Appeal decision that dramatically altered how awards for future damages are calculated.

The actual cost incurred in resolving and managing active claims last year was €538.1 million, which is a 3 per cent increase on the 2022 out-turn.

The figures were contained in the annual report of the National Treasury Management Agency, which is known as the SCA when managing personal injury and other claims against the State and certain State authorities.