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Chapter 2 — Finance

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Historical background: the capitation grant system


The legislation that established the Industrial Schools system expressly provided State funding for maintenance of the children, but not for the establishment of schools themselves. The Children Act 1908 continued this capitation grant system.


The Industrial Schools were owned by the religious Orders who provided the buildings and farms, and they were responsible for improvements, alterations, extensions, renewals and repairs. The expenses for renovations and repairs were to be paid for out of the private resources of the congregations and by charitable donations.


By paying for the children rather than the institution the British administration avoided the delicate issue of whether to give money directly to religious denominations. Protestant and Roman Catholic communities were fearful of either side being given too much power by the authorities.


Local authorities were obliged under the 1908 Children Act to provide for the maintenance and reception of offenders in Reformatory and Industrial Schools. They did not have to pay for children who were admitted on the application of their parents or guardians or for children whose parents were unable to look after them. Also they were exempt if the parents had committed an offence punishable by imprisonment that resulted in their children detained.


Unlike the State however, the local Authorities did have to pay for children in excess of the certification limit and for children under the age of six.


These provisions were altered in changes made in 1944 (see below).


Most of the children who were placed in Industrial Schools came from backgrounds of poverty and deprivation. If the State saw fit to remove a child from its parents because the child was at risk of malnutrition and neglect, it had an obligation to ensure that the institution into which the child was placed did not also put it at risk of malnutrition and neglect. In other words, the capitation grant had to be large enough to keep a child adequately, so that a proper standard of care was provided.


The Department of Education’s Rules and Regulations were clear as to what the minimum standards were. Rule 5 stipulated that the children shall be supplied with neat, comfortable clothing in good repair, suitable to the season of the year, not necessarily uniform either in material or colour.


Rule 6 provided minimum standards for an adequate diet: The Children shall be supplied with plain wholesome food, according to a Scale of Dietary to be drawn up by the Medical Officer of the School and approved by the Inspector. Such food shall be suitable in every aspect for growing children actively employed and supplemented in the case of delicate or physically under-developed children with special food as individual needs require. No substantial alterations in the Dietary shall be made without previous notice to the Inspector. A copy of the Dietary shall be given to the Cook and a further copy kept in the Manager’s Office.


It was the responsibility of the Department to ensure adequate finance for these minimum standards of care, and it was the responsibility of the Resident Manager to ensure they were maintained. From time to time tensions arose because one or other failed in its obligations: the Department could let funding become inadequate or the Resident Manager could allow basic living conditions to fall below the standards set by the rules.


During the period under investigation, this argument about funding was constant, and for the most part the Department sided with the Resident Managers. An internal Education Department memorandum to the Minister in 1967 wrote that it was ‘in no position to defend its achievement as far as the size of grant goes’.1


A central figure in this argument was the Department’s medical inspector, whose role included ensuring that basic conditions such as food and clothing and living conditions were appropriate to promote general health. In many instances she accused the school of negligent mismanagement of the funds, but she could also take the side of the Resident Manager and argue that funding was inadequate to meet basic needs.


The fundamental question, whether the State fulfilled its obligations under law to provide the basic needs of children in care, is not an easy one, and perhaps no definitive answer is possible.


The Investigation Committee engaged expert assistance from Mazars, Financial Consultants. Mazars examined the available financial records of four separate institutions and they also addressed the general question of whether the capitation payments down through the years were adequate to enable the institutions to provide for the children who were detained in them. The Mazars report and submissions in response are considered later and are annexed to this chapter.

The basic cost of keeping a child in an industrial school


The Cussen Report2 outlined the problems of estimating the cost of keeping a child in an Industrial or Reformatory School: It is difficult to arrive at a figure which would reasonably represent the average yearly cost of maintenance per child in the schools. This is due in the main to differences of circumstances existing as between the various schools; many have farms which produce a very substantial proportion of their food requirements, while others with small or no farms are forced to purchase such supplies either partly or wholly in the open market. In addition variations in the cost of materials for the workshops, clothing, bedding bootmaking, etc, have to be considered. According to figures furnished to us for the year 1933, the cost per head per annum for food varied in the Senior Boys’ Industrial Schools from £7 1s 2d to £20; for wearing apparel from £2 6s. 4d to £6 1s., and for medical expenses from 11s 7d to £2. In the Junior Boys’ Industrial Schools; food varied from £10 10s. to £15 4s 2d. per head per annum; wearing apparel from £2 8s. 7d to £4 11s 9d., and medical expenses from 3s. 5d to £1 8s. In the Girls’ Industrial Schools food varied from £9 8s. to £26 per head per annum, wearing apparel from £1 2s. 3d. to £11, and medical expenses from 3s. 11d. to £7. Corresponding figures from the Reformatories were: Boys’ School, food £30 per head per annum; wearing apparel, £8 16s. and medical expenses, £1. In the Girls’ Reformatories the figures were: food £14; wearing apparel, £6; and medical expenses £2 10s. The disparities in cost as shown are probably due also in some measure to a lack of uniformity in the methods of cost accounting adopted, as the diet in the schools are substantially the same, and the fact that a greater proportion of foodstuffs has to be purchased in some schools as compared with others would hardly explain the marked differences in the cost of maintenance indicated by the figures obtained from the schools. We are, however, satisfied, as a result of our inquiries, that the schools are very economically managed, supplies being obtained where possible by contract or on equally favourable terms.

  1. Quoted in D of E submission, pp 103-4.
  2. Report of Commission of Inquiry into the Reformatory and Industrial School System, 1934-36, paras 165-7.
  3. These reforms are explained in a cogent six page Minute of 14th March 1944 written by the Department (Ó Dubhthaigh, Leas Runai) to the Runai, Department of Finance. The Minute also questioned the certification system’s legality:
  4. There is no justification for the ‘Certificate’ system. The Children Acts, 1908 to 1941, lay down the circumstances in which children may be committed to industrial schools. The Courts commit children to them in accordance with these Acts. At this stage the Certificate system operates inconsistently to allow payment of the State Grant on some of the children so committed and to forbid it on others. There seems to be no reason for the State’s failure to contribute to the support of some arbitrary number of those children. No such distinction is made, for instance, in the case of youthful offenders committed to Reformatories under the same Acts or of people sent to jail. If the purpose is to limit the number of children to which the Children Acts may apply, its legality is questionable.
  5. Memo of 4th April 1951 from M O’Siochfradha states:
  6. In all cases the actual accommodation limit was greater than the certified number and in many cases it was considerably greater viz., Glin – accommodation 220, certified number 190; Letterfrack, accommodation 190, certified number 165; Artane, accommodation 830, certified number 800.
  7. See also Education Statement, para 3.2.
  8. At certain periods (e.g. 1940s) anxious consideration was given to the question of how many places to certify – whether to raise or lower the previous year’s figure or to leave it the same. Among the factors weighing with the person taking the decision (usually there was a significant contribution from Dr McCabe) was: the numbers of committals anticipated; the suitability of the schools (e.g. accessibility from Dublin); the need to assist small schools with disproportionately high overheads; a desire to avoid creating jealousy among the schools.
  9. Data provided by Mazars indicates that a single man at the lowest point of the salary scale was paid £145 in 1944.
  10. Appendices to the Mazars’ Report are included on the Commissions website (www.childabusecommission.ie)
  11. Mazars, Part 4.1.
  12. Mazars, Part 4.2.3.
  13. Section 44 of the Children Act 1908.
  14. Mazars, Part 4.2.3.
  15. Mazars, Part 4.3.1.
  16. Mazars, Part 4.3.1.
  17. Mazars, Part 4.3.1.
  18. Mazars, Part 4.4.2.
  19. Mazars, Part 4.4.3.
  20. Mazars, Part 4.4.4.
  21. Mazars, Part 4.4.4.
  22. Mazars ‘Analysis of Stipends in Lieu of Salaries & Teachers’ Pay, March 2008’.
  23. Mazars, Part 8.2.
  24. That is approx £69,000 out of a total of £726,881.
  25. That is £251,000 out of £726,881.
  26. Mazars, Part 8.2.
  27. Mazars, Part 7.2.
  28. Mazars, Part 5.1.
  29. Mazars, Part 5.1.
  30. Mazars, Part 5.2.
  31. Mazars, Part 5.2.
  32. Mazars, Part 5.2.
  33. Mazars, Part 5.2.
  34. Mazars, Part 5.4.
  35. Submission of the Christian Brothers on the Review of Financial Matters Relating to the System of the Reformatory and Industrial Schools, and a Number of Individual Institutions 1939 to 1969 - Appendices to the Mazars’ Report are included on the Commissions website (www.childabusecommission.ie).
  36. Ciaran Fahy Report: see Vol I, ch 7, Appendix.
  37. Mazars, Part 7.2.
  38. Mazars, Part 7.2.
  39. Mazars, Part 7.2.
  40. Mazars, Part 7.2.
  41. Mazars, Part 7.2.
  42. Mazars, Part 7.4.
  43. Mazars, Part 8.2.
  44. Mazars, Part 8.2.
  45. Mazars, Part 8.2.
  46. Mazars, Part 8.2.
  47. Mazars, Part 8.4.
  48. Mazars, Part 6.4.
  49. Mazars, Part 6.4.
  50. Mazars, Part 6.4.
  51. Rosminian Final Submissions, p 13.
  52. Rosminian Final Submissions, pp 13-14.
  53. Rosminian Final Submissions, p 17.
  54. Rosminian Final Submissions, pp 17-18. Cf p 19.
  55. Rosminian Final Submissions, p 19.
  56. Rosminian Final Submissions, p 17.
  57. Rosminian Final Submissions, p 20.
  58. Rosminian Final Submissions, p 22.
  59. Rosminian Final Submissions, p 23.
  60. Mazars, Part 9.2.
  61. Rosminian Final Submissions, p 15.