HSE apologises for 'very serious failings' after High Court awards 'Grace' €6.3m

HSE apologises for 'very serious failings' after High Court awards 'Grace' €6.3m

The High Court has approved a settlement worth €6.3m for 'Grace' , the young woman with intellectual disabilities who was left in the care of a foster family for 20 years despite physical abuse, gross neglect and possible sexual abuse.

President of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly approved the settlement describing the failure of care in this case as a scandal, write Daniel McConnell and Fiachra O Cionnaith of the Irish Examiner.

Grace's story has been extensively covered in the Irish Examiner over several years.

In court, the Health Service Executive (HSE) apologised to the woman in court for the failings in her care.

The court heard those failings included inadequate monitoring and oversight of her care and inadequate action to remove her from the foster home after significant concerns had been raised.

In its apology, the HSE said the care she received "fell short of the compassionate, caring and personalised support that she was entitled to".

HSE apologises for 'very serious failings' after High Court awards 'Grace' €6.3m

In the letter of apology from Chief Officer Aileen Colley and read out to the court by senior counsel the HSE said it sincerely regretted that Grace experienced "a number of very serious failings" in her care during this time up to 2009.

These included, the statement said:

"Inadequate monitoring and oversight of your care; an absence of necessary liaison between those responsible for your placement in the foster home ; inadequate action to remove you from your foster home after signficiant concerns had been raised and an absence of the necessary protocols and arrangments to support the placement of vulnerable children and adults with a disability in foster families.

It added: "The care you received fell far short of the compassionate, caring and personalised support you were entitled to . For all of these faiilings I wish on behalf of the HSE to sincerely apologise to you."

The letter concluded: " I want to reassure you and everbody associated with your care the HSE has taken steps both locally and nationally for continued service improvements, standards and safe care."

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Kelly said the reasons why 'Grace' was left in the foster care placement in 1996 despite recommendations from professionals and health board personnel that she be moved "remained a mystery".

He said a decision to move her was reversed by a three-person health board committee, after representations were made by the foster parents to the then minister for health.

He said it remained a mystery as to how that decision was made.

He said it was a scandal when you considered how this young woman had been treated while in the care of the HSE and its predecessor.

As reported in the Irish Examiner, Grace has very significant needs and was unable to speak.

In court, Mr Justice Kelly said there was a suggestion that she had been sexually abused. He said she had certainly been physically abused.

Mr Justice Kelly said a decision had been made in 1996 to remove 'Grace' from the foster family. But he said that decision had been reversed by a three-person committee in the health board for reasons which remained a mystery to this day.

He said this was after representations were made by the foster parents to the then minister for health.

He said the decision was made in the teeth of recommendations from the professionals and health board personnel.

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