Judge rules disabled young woman can remain in 'chaotic' family home - for now

By Ann O'Loughlin

A High Court judge has, "with great reluctance", decided an intellectually disabled young woman with physical health issues can remain with her family in conditions of "squalor and chaos" while a plan for her gradual transition to an alternative care regime is pursued.

Despite the “terrible” family situation, including the woman witnessing domestic violence, social workers fear her sudden removal from the family would traumatise her and lead to her not co-operating with the alternative regime, the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, noted.

After being told the woman's weekly €188 disability benefit appears to be controlled by her father, who is subject of a barring order, the judge directed it be paid directly to the general solicitor for wards of court for the woman's benefit.

The matter was before the judge via an application by the HSE to have the woman made a ward of court based on medical views she lacks necessary mental capacity to manage her affairs. Her physical difficulties include obesity and a heart condition.

He had no hesitation taking the woman into wardship as she clearly needs court protection but her mental difficulties were "only part of her difficulties", the judge said.

She is living in "shocking" conditions of “squalor and chaos” in a “filthy” home permeated by violence she had witnessed regularly, he said. Although her father and other family members were subject of barring orders, these appeared to be ignored or not enforced and the father was seen around the home.

A “terrible” domestic situation presented where, as well as violence in the home, there was also violence in the neighbourhood including use of firearms. He had serious misgivings about being asked to direct she remain in this situation but the evidence was a sudden removal would be counterproductive.

An intervention by Tusla lead to an earlier attempt involving gardaí to remove another sibling which lead to emotional scenes. That sibling was placed in immediate danger of self-harm and ultimately had to be returned because more harm than good was likely to occur.

With "great reluctance", the judge considered he had no choice but to leave the woman in the family while a programme for her gradual transition to a home-share arrangement and other measures was pursued.

Earlier, the court was told other concerns include the family is in transitional housing and there is a risk, for reasons including alleged breach of barring orders, they may lose that. Shots had been fired at their home and family members were attacked and injured, it was stated.

While a programme to have the woman cared for under a home sharing arrangement has commenced with some overnight stays, she sometimes became tearful at being away as she has a close, if anxious, bond with her mother. Her attendance at a day care service was very sporadic and there were concerns about her heart condition, obesity, personal hygiene, dental and other issues.

A social worker described the situation as "very difficult" and said the woman's mother is in fear of her husband. The woman herself is "quite strong willed" and might not engage with home-sharing if suddenly taken from the family.

The woman has limited understanding and, if she does not get her father’s permission to do something, feels she cannot do it and said her father would not allow the home sharing. While there were some positive developments with the family recently, they are not fully on board with the proposals, it was stated.

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