Cabinet to get report into foster care abuse

The long-delayed Government report into serious foster abuse in the south-east is set to go before Cabinet tomorrow after the final legal hurdles blocking its publication were overcome.

The Irish Examiner understands Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath will bring the report to the ministerial meeting tomorrow morning after discussing the publication with Department of Health officials today — clearing the way for a promised State inquiry into the scandal.

The report, by independent senior counsel Conor Dignam, was first commissioned by former Labour TD and Department of Health junior minister Kathleen Lynch 16 months ago to examine serious foster abuse allegations in the south-east.

These allegations centred around a woman with severe intellectual disabilities, given the pseudonym ‘Grace’, who was alleged sexually abused, assaulted internally with a blunt object causing life-limiting injuries and at one stage forced to live in a cubby hole underneath the foster family’s stairs.

“Grace” lived with the foster family from the late 1980s until 2009, despite concerns being raised about the family — who also housed more than 43 other children and teens at different stages during the period — being raised as early as 1992.

While all placements with the family were meant to end in 1995, Grace continued to stay at the home until 2009 while a second woman, called “Anne”, stayed for respite care until 2013.

Several senior staff who were responsible for overseeing care standards in the region at that time remain in their positions in the HSE and child protection watchdog Tusla.

After the interim report was provided to the Department of Health last December, it was decided to instigate a full review of what happened, and why two HSE-commissioned reports by Conall Devine and Resilience Ireland have yet to be published.

Despite plans to publish the document as early as last May, Mr Dignam has repeatedly sought extensions to its deadline in order to ensure all files are received and all views heard, thereby preventing any legal difficulties with the final report.

After two legal issues blocking the document’s publication were resolved in recent days, Minister Finian McGrath will today meet with Department officials to sign off the Dignam report.

While it had been expected that Cabinet would not review the findings until next week, Mr McGrath is committed to bringing it to cabinet today with a view to publishing it that same day.

The publication of the document — which does not name any individual still working in the HSE and Tusla, referring to them by a letter label system instead — will clear the way for Government to agree to set up a State investigation into the case in the coming weeks.

This commission of inquiry was promised by Taoiseach Enda Kenny on the final day before the last Dáil was dissolved to allow for the general election.

Freedom of Information documents obtained by the Irish Examiner last month show that while the HSE handed over more than 12,000 pages of files on the case to Mr Dignam, it did not initially provide all records of what happened — delaying the report’s completion.


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