‘Systemic change needed in how we care for our most vulnerable citizens’

Tony Canavan: Outlined some changes that have taken place.

The abuse suffered by Áras Attracta residents could be happening elsewhere in the country, the head of a review into the Mayo care centre has said.

Áras Attracta has undergone several changes since the HSE commissioned an independent review into the Mayo care centre last year.

Bungalow 3, which was the subject of an RTÉ Prime Time Investigates report in December 2014, is no longer in operation.

“Bungalow 3 as such, is no longer in operation as it was. ‘Bungalow 3’ as we saw then [in the Prime Time report] does not exist,” Dr Kevin McCoy, the review group’s chairperson, confirmed.

Furthermore, the centre has been broken down into three units since the report was commissioned.

The HSE published the group’s report yesterday.

Tony Canavan, the HSE’s chief officer for the Galway, Mayo, and Roscommon community region, outlined some of the changes that have taken place: “We have a new director of services in place. We have divided Áras Attracta itself which has 89 [people] accommodated on campus, we’ve divided that into three separate centres.”

‘Systemic change needed in how we care for our most vulnerable citizens’

He apologised on behalf of the staff yesterday: “I would of course like to apologise to the residents of Áras Attracta and indeed to their families for the way that they were treated. I do that on my own behalf but also for the staff at Áras Attracta as well.”

The most significant change to come out of the undercover investigation and the subsequent report is a concerted effort to allow residents of care centres to move into community-based living settings.

In order to facilitate this, Mr Canavan confirmed that the HSE is in the process of acquiring several properties.

“We are in the process of purchasing a number of properties throughout Co Mayo, two in Castlebar, two in Ballina, and one in Westport and we are looking at other properties in Swinford and around.”

‘Systemic change needed in how we care for our most vulnerable citizens’

Deirdre Carroll, who was also on the review group, said that already more than 1,000 people have been assisted in moving into the community.

“In 2009, there were over 4,000 people living in what we’d call congregated settings, that is a setting of more than 10 people. It became part of the HSE policy to move people out of these settings because of the evidence of the very poor quality of care, the poor value for money, and the choice of people themselves. It is now down, as far as I am aware, to 2,700 people since 2011.”

Minister for Health Simon Harris said he was “shocked” and “appalled” by the undercover investigation in 2014. He said he is not going to be satisfied with simple “compliance” to recommendations in the report, but that how we care for our most vulnerable citizens requires a systemic change.

“The Dr McCoy report speaks very frankly about people in Áras Attracta, and I’m sure people in other places, who didn’t have the opportunity to develop to their full potential, to live their life to their full potential. We’re moving towards personalised budgets, linking funding to the actual person,” Mr Harris said.

‘Systemic change needed in how we care for our most vulnerable citizens’

He said that in order to best serve people, services must be “rights-based”.

“Before I got involved in political life I got involved with families of children with autism, and disability issues are very close to my heart. I remember watching the programme, and really like so many people in this country, being so shocked, so saddened, so angry by what was happening,” he said.

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