Legal action involving State over two ‘Grace’-type cases

Two cases similar to that of ‘Grace’ — the intellectually disabled woman abused in a foster home — are now the subject of legal action involving the State.

Documents obtained by the Irish Examiner reveal the State Claims Agency (SCA) on behalf of the HSE is dealing with cases similar to ‘Grace’, which are at the “early stage of litigation”.

The documents also show how the HSE sought to “sanitise” draft versions of a Deloitte report into its funding of Grace’s care giver.

Independent TD Catherine Murphy, who has led the examination into the handling of Grace’s case, said the revelations contained in the documents are “very concerning”.

Last year, the HSE agreed a €6.3m settlement with Grace over the failure in her care and by way of compensation, but in relation to the two new cases, the HSE said any awards will be met on a “pay as you go basis”.

Grace had been allowed languish in a foster home in the South-East for more than 13 years after an original decision to remove her from the home was overturned in 1996. In that home, Grace and other non-verbal children and young adults suffered horrendous sexual and physical abuse.

While the failure in Grace’s care is already the subject of a Commission of Inquiry in the wake of revelations in this newspaper, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has been seeking answers from the HSE into Grace’s care.

“The SCA has advised us that they are currently managing two similar cases to ‘Grace’ and both these two cases are at the early stage of litigation,” the HSE documents reveal.

“In relation to provision for claims, awards paid to claimants under the terms of state indemnity are accounted for on a “pay as you go” basis and the Accounting Policies of the HSE note this and full disclosure is made in the notes to the accounts of the estimated total provision at the year end date.”

The documents also show that senior HSE personnel raised concerns over statements in the Deloitte report, which they felt would reflect badly on the organisation.

“An overarching concern with the current draft report relates to the following: Public statements external to HSE infers that there is a concerted effort on the part of the HSE to target this specific agency in a less favourable way than others.

“The key concern ideally should be addressed in the draft report. It would appear that no prima facia evidence has been gathered to support the assertions referred to,” said the HSE.

“Should these statements remain in the draft report, some consideration should be given as to the context of the statements made in the PAC by the HSE,” the HSE document states.

Responding to the revelations, Ms Murphy, speaking to the Irish Examiner, expressed her concerns as to such moves by the HSE to have a report amended when it was the payer for the report.

“Often, he who pays the pipers calls the tune,” she said. “You would be concerned that a report like this would be dumbed down or sanitised and I think there is evidence in this report that the HSE are asking for things to be stated in particular ways to make it less critical of them,” she said.

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