The whistleblower who has repeatedly pushed for the full details surrounding serious abuse allegations at a south-east foster-care home has welcomed the HSE’s apology for its “failings” but warned that the system has still not explained who is responsible for what happened.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner last night, the social worker, who has declined to be named so as not to identify the alleged victim, said the move is a step in the right direction but falls far short of full disclosure of who is at fault within the system.
Details provided to the Dáil Public Accounts Committee over Christmas and published today show that seven years after serious abuse allegations in the south-east became apparent, the HSE has apologised for the case that faced Leinster House claims that a “clique of HSE managers” attempted to cover it up.
The alleged abuse at the centre of the investigation, described last year by one TD as “the worst I’ve seen in 16 years as a public servant”, relates to concerns raised over a single family who looked after more than 40 children with severe intellectual disabilities between 1983 and 2009.
As previously revealed by this newspaper, in 1992 the South Eastern Health Board, raised concerns about the foster family, with social workers removing all children and teens from their care in 1995.
However, one mute woman with significant intellectual disabilities was instead accidentally left with the family until mid-2009 and is alleged to have suffered extreme sexual, physical, and financial abuse.
After social-care workers raised concerns about the matter and how the HSE failed to take the woman out of the home in 1995, the HSE set up the first of a series of investigations.
However, despite the HSE spending hundreds of thousands of euro on three reports, none has been published — an issue the HSE says is solely due to the need to not interfere with ongoing Garda inquiries and that it wants to release the records as soon as possible.
Over Christmas, after a lengthy 16-month freedom of information battle between the whistleblower and the HSE, 24 pages of the first report, concluded in 2012, were given to the Public Accounts Committee, outlining non-personal recommendations and apologising for service “failings”.
However, the whistle-blower said that while she welcomes the apology there continues to be a need to explain who is responsible and what, if any, disciplinary measures they have faced.
“What is the apology for if they can’t tell us the findings, or who is responsible?” she said.
Fine Gael TD John Deasy, one of two TDs who have repeatedly raised concerns over the south-east foster care home allegations, last night said the report apology “does not close this chapter”.
Committee chairman and Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness claimed the HSE “has been extremely reluctant to engage”.
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