HSE bosses have been summoned to a meeting with Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath in the coming days over revelations that hundreds of vulnerable adults were abandoned in care settings for years without any State follow-up.
But while the minister said he was “appalled” by the revelations, he refused yesterday to commit to a formal investigation into the affair and his department said it would be “premature” to discuss such a move.
The scandal, revealed by the RTÉ Investigations Unit, centres on an unpublished report compiled by a senior social worker which raised serious concerns about the care and protection of 1,080 adults with intellectual disabilities in residential care and foster home settings.
In some cases, people were left exposed to the risk of sexual abuse because concerns documented by staff were not shared or investigated and no follow-up welfare checks were carried out.
There were no cases files at all for nearly 200 people while many other files contained only a single sheet of paper. One file had not been updated in 25 years.
In two of the cases highlighted, the people had received no visit from a health board or HSE representative in 17 years and 16 years respectively despite one of the placements costing the State €88,000 a year.
The revelations, all relating to the South East region, come in the wake of last year’s Grace scandal in which a woman with intellectual disabilities was left in a foster home in the South East for 20 years despite the removal of other children from the home because of allegations of sexual abuse.
They also follow more recent allegations that another young adult, Mary, was left in foster care in the Cork region despite complaints of abuse raised by a member of a foster carer’s extended family.
Mary’s case is the subject of an independent review commissioned by the HSE and Tusla while Grace’s case is being reviewed by a government-appointed barrister, Conor Dignam SC, who is due to report to the minister in the coming weeks with recommendations on what kind of investigation should follow.
The last government agreed in principle that a commission of investigation should be carried out into the Grace case but there are calls that when its terms of reference are drawn up, that they should be wide enough to cover all the other cases.
The HSE has said it prioritised 47 of the 1,080 cases for review following receipt of the social worker’s report in 2013 and there were no current safeguarding concerns in relation to any individuals referred to the in the report.
But opposition parties have called for urgent action to address the failings identified in the report.
Margaret Murphy O’Mahony, Fianna Fáil spokeswoman on disability, said she would raise the issue in the Dáil next week. “It is completely unacceptable that the State continues to fail to meet its responsibility to protect people with intellectual disabilities,” she said.
Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the findings of the report were deeply disturbing in the level of “ineptness and malpractice” uncovered.
“Those who have presided over the worst practices and failures should be replaced forthwith,” he said.
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