21 cases of care home abuse probed

More than 20 staff at HSE homes for people with severe intellectual disabilities have been suspended or sacked since January 2014 over physical, financial and sexual abuse claims unrelated to the Áras Attracta scandal.

21 cases of care home abuse probed

Documents obtained by the Irish Examiner show the HSE is examining 21 cases at seven more facilities amid ongoing public concern the abuse at the Co Mayo home is being repeated elsewhere.

Freedom of Information records revealed as the first Áras Attracta court hearing took place yesterday, and as two Hiqa reports into separate scandals were published, confirm the HSE is aware of a spate of other incidents under review since January 2014.

They include the alleged sexual abuse of people with severe intellectual disabilities; physical abuse; and claims residents’ money was misspent by workers.

The most serious cases involve the sexual abuse of residents, leading to at least one dismissal and a number of HSE investigations into staff who are now suspended.

Among these cases are incidents at St Peter’s service in Castlepollard, Co Westmeath, where a care assistant who was fired after “an allegation of sexual assault” was given a “character reference on HSE- headed paper” by a clinical nurse manager, and St Joseph’s Intellectual Disability Service in Dublin.

At the second facility, an investigation is ongoing into claims that a HSE maintenance worker has been suspended since early 2013 due to “an allegation of sexual abuse by a client”.

The 21 non-Áras Attracta inquiries also involve claims of physical and financial abuse of vulnerable people who are often unable to communicate fully.

At Peamont intellectual disability service in Dublin, five people — including a staff nurse, agency nurse and three care assistants —were recently suspended with pay for up to five months for the “alleged abuse” of residents. Two have been dismissed to date.

At St Peter’s in Westmeath — where the first sexual assault claim was made — three investigations are ongoing into “unexplained bruising” while a staff nurse was given a written warning after “inappropriate locking in of service users”.

At St Joseph’s in Dublin — where the other sexual assaults claims were made — a clinical nurse manager has been assigned to “non-frontline administration duties” since early 2014 due to “an allegation of behaviour considered abusive towards a client on two separate occasions”. The report has yet to be published.

Investigations are also ongoing into staff at St Aidan’s in Gorey, Co Wexford, and the Brothers of Charity in the south-east over physical and financial abuse claims.

At the St Raphael’s Centre in Youghal, east Cork, a staff member has been on sick leave since late last year due to an “allegation of possible abusive interaction” with a resident, while at the Daughters of Charity facility in Roscrea, Co Tipperary, 11 nurses and care workers are “off duty” while inquiries continue into “care standards”.

Asked to comment on the scale of cases outlined, the HSE said it is “focused on ensuring people with disabilities are safe and empowered” and has appointed a confidential recipient among other moves in light of the Áras Attracta scandal.

The allegations come in the wake of RTÉ’s hidden cameras exposé into Áras Attracta late last year which resulted in six people appearing before Ballina District Court on assault charges yesterday, before a full hearing on July 14.

The latest intellectual abuse revelations also came as two separate Hiqa reports revealed further serious concerns over disability service standards.

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