Woman left in ‘house of horrors’ on legal advice

A young woman with severe intellectual disabilities was allowed to languish in the Waterford foster home for several years because the HSE failed to warn her family about sex abuse allegations.

The woman, who is now aged 35 and referred to as ‘Anne’, was allowed remain in the “House of Horrors” foster home until 2013, despite concerns about abuse being flagged as early as 1995.

The HSE told the PAC it withheld the information from the family because of legal advice.

Members of the committee were told this was because there was a report being compiled on allegations that another woman in the foster home — referred to as ‘Grace’ — was subject to sexual abuse.

Asked by PAC member John Deasy, a Fine Gael TD, whether her family were told the “tenor” of the concerns about the home, whether they were told about the alleged sexual abuse at the home, HSE director general Tony O’Brien said it was his “understanding” that they were not.

It has also been claimed that health bosses failed to protect Grace from financial abuse as far back as 2007.

It was claimed yesterday that €70,000 in disability allowance was paid to the foster family by the State in respect of Grace’s care, despite her being subjected to horrendous abuse and neglect.

“The HSE knew that Grace was at risk of financial abuse in 2007 and did nothing. In 2009, when she was taken into care, she had no belongings, no documents and no money,” said PAC chairman John McGuinness.

Senior health bosses who were responsible for placing Anne, Grace, and 45 other children in the foster home have been called on to resign or step aside while investigations are ongoing.

Whistleblowers involved in Grace’s case, senior Cabinet ministers, and several PAC members called for the resignations of those who failed to protect the children and young women.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, speaking to the Irish Examiner, said those responsible must do the decent thing and resign.

“I think people should be offering resignations if they are responsible for what happened,” he said. “Of course they should. Anyone who has been responsible for making decisions that put children at risk should take responsibility for this.”

Mr McGuinness echoed Mr Coveney’s call, saying those who failed to remove Grace and Anne should stand aside or be stood aside by Mr O’Brien.

“Those who know what they did or didn’t do should do the decent thing and stand down,” he said.

Mr O’Brien said three people with authority for a woman, known as Grace, being kept in the home in the south-east 14 years after admissions stopped had since left the public service.

However, he added that other staff involved in her care are now working for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, others are in the HSE, and he is powerless to discipline them while criminal investigations continue.

Tusla is expected to clarify which of its staff this relates to later today.

Meanwhile, the whistle-blower who first raised concerns over the abuse scandal has urged the HSE to release details of two unpublished reports explaining why a vulnerable person was allowed to stay despite serious abuse claims.

The social worker for Grace told the Irish Examiner there is no legal impediment to detailing key facts about the decision.


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