A group which supports people with disabilities warns that it is “not inconceivable” that cases similar to that of Grace are still happening because of a lack of legislation to protect vulnerable adults.

Inclusion Ireland chief executive Paddy Connolly said while there have been some infrastructural changes in the sector, in other ways the laws protecting vulnerable adults are weaker than those covering children.

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, said in a statement there are now many more safeguards regarding children in foster placements and a higher level of monitoring than when Grace entered the placement in the south-east.

A Tusla spokeswoman said: “Grace’s placement predates the introduction of the ‘Child Care (Placement of Children in Foster Care) Regulations 1995’, and her experience does not reflect current foster care placements which are highly regulated both externally by Hiqa and internally by Tusla’s monitoring service.”

She said 94% of all children currently in foster care have an allocated social worker and in the small number of cases where a child does not, they are monitored by a team leader to ensure their safety and wellbeing.

“Where a child is at immediate risk they receive a timely response, and 93% have care plans which mean that the child’s needs are assessed and they are placed in the most suitable foster care placement, taking those needs and the best interests of the child into account,” said the spokeswoman.

Mr Connolly said children with a disability are still outside Tusla’s remit; that a proposal a decade ago for independent advocates on behalf of vulnerable adults to have statutory powers was never enacted; and that there is a lack in legislation for vulnerable adults.

He said that regardless of the commission of inquiry into the case, it is obvious there are still faults in the current system.

Mr Connolly said home sharing, an alternative to fostering for children with an intellectual disability, is under-resourced. 

A HSE report on home sharing showed that as of last March, there were a total of 853 people with intellectual disability in it — 398 children and 455 adults.

He said there are also issues when children enter adult disability services at 18. Mr Connolly said that, overall: “It is not inconceivable [that other cases could be happening] because of the gaps [in the system].”

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