The Health Service Executive (HSE) has for the first time admitted significant failings in cases of “savage” rape and physical abuse of disabled children in a foster home in the South-East, seven years after allegations were first raised.
The failure of the HSE to formally acknowledge the plight of victims before now and its handling of the abuse has been severely criticised by two leading members of the Dail’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
The abuse of children and young adults at the foster home, which occurred between 1983 and 2009, continues to be the subject of Garda investigations. The HSE had said these investigations are the reason for its silence up until last night.
Allegations of abuse were first raised to HSE managers by two whistleblowers in 2009, but according to documents sent to the PAC, the health service has apologised for the failings in the standards of care.
An internal 2012 HSE report — the Devine Report, which cost €100,000 to produce — into the allegations involving one victim has not been published.
A second 2015 review report relating to other cases of sexual and physical abuse at the foster home has also not been released.
Following an appeal to the Information Commissioner before Christmas, the HSE has sent a limited amount of the Devine Report’s findings and recommendations to the PAC.
In these documents, obtained by the Irish Examiner, the HSE apologises for the first time to the victim of the abuse for the failings in care standards.
“The HSE has made arrangements to meet with the service user who was the subject of the Devine report to apologise for the significant failings of the service in meeting the service user’s needs over such an extended period of time,” the report states.
“The HSE also in public comment is apologising to all those who received poor care when placed with this foster family,” the report adds.
However, one of the whistleblowers last night said no such apology has yet been given directly to the alleged victim of the abuse.
“After six years of raising concerns, I welcome at long last that the HSE have acknowledged the significant failings in what happened. What is the apology for, if they can’t tell us the findings, or who is responsible,” said the whistleblower.
Some of the allegations made known to the HSE related to sexual abuse of an extreme nature. In one case, a child who was unable to speak was removed from the home and subsequently acted out some of the sexual abuse she was subjected to. She would adopt a sexual pose when a particular word was said.
The victim was later told the allegations couldn’t be prosecuted, as she would not make a good witness, because she can’t speak.
It was also detailed how children were locked underneath the stairwell by the foster parents.
However, the gardaí and the HSE have come in for criticism from across the political spectrum.
In a statement, the HSE said the 24-page version of the report was released after an FOI request and that the health service intends to publish the report in full when it is “legally cleared” to do so.
“While we are not able to talk about the body of the report, the recommendations capture the extent and nature of the failings in the service,” it said.
PAC chairman John McGuinness was deeply critical of the HSE’s handling of the allegations and said it had to be “dragged kicking and screaming” to this point of issuing an apology.
“This requires a further independent investigation into these horrendous allegations of some of the worst and most savage abuse I have ever heard.
“The HSE has been extremely reluctant to engage,” he said.
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