Dáil Éireann - Volume 638 - 26 September, 2007

Written Answers. - Victims Commission.

[624] Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason funding was withdrawn for the Irish missing persons helpline which closed in 2005; if he has plans to re-instate funding to enable them to operate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20487/07]

  Deputy Brian Lenihan:The National Missing Persons Helpline was established in October, 2002. Initially funding of €65,000 (to include set up costs) was made available by my Department to establish a dedicated National Missing Persons Helpline, to be operated and administered by Victim Support an independent, non-governmental organisation with charitable status. Further funding of €45,000 was provided to Victim Support to operate the Helpline in 2003. This funding was in addition to the ongoing funding that the organisation Victim Support received for the provision of services to victims of crime.

This funding was provided subject to the conditions that no funding beyond the year 2003 should be implied and audited accounts should be provided to my Department on a calendar year basis. The Missing Persons Helpline operated from the headquarters of Victim Support alongside Victims Support’s own helpline for victims of crime. The Victim Support organisation received financial support from my Department from 1985 to 31 March 2005, during which period € 8.3 million was made available to it.

In March 2005, my predecessor decided that continued funding of the Victim Support organisation could no longer be justified due to serious concerns in relation to governance, accountability for public funds and poor service levels, after a lengthy period of instability within the organisation. I understand that Victim Support closed down its headquarters operation during 2005 and that a number of staff were made redundant, including the person employed to operate the Missing Persons Helpline. My Department had no role in the decision of Victim Support to make a number of its staff redundant, other than to insist that statutory requirements (notice, holiday pay, etc.) be met and that the interests of the staff be protected. Also in March 2005, my predecessor established a new Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime to devise an appropriate support framework for victims of crime into the future and to disburse funding for victim support measures.

I am informed that funding to support the operation of a missing person’s helpline and to provide such ongoing supports as are necessary to operate such a helpline is being considered by the Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime, on foot of an application to them by Missing in Ireland Support Services (MISS) on the 1st February, 2007. The Commission has been in [625] ongoing contact with the Chairperson of MISS over the past months and its Chairperson and a member of the Commission met with representatives of MISS on Wednesday, 20 June 2007 to discuss their application.

I am further informed that the Commission are awaiting clarification on a number of issues by MISS before their application can proceed. It should be borne in mind that the Commission is charged with funding support services for victims of crime, and that, while some persons who are missing are crime victims, most are not. I should also point out that the Commission is entirely independent in the performance of its functions and it would not be appropriate for me to comment or intervene in any way with a decision taken by the Commission in relation to the allocation of funding.