Foster care whistleblower to meet head of the HSE

The HSE whistleblower who uncovered the south-east foster care abuse scandal is set to meet with HSE director general Tony O’Brien in the second half of this week in a bid to address the crisis.
Foster care whistleblower to meet head of the HSE

The social worker is understood to be holding a meeting with the head of the HSE in Dublin in the coming days at the behest of Mr O’Brien, after he was advised to speak with her by Health Minister Leo Varadkar.

The meeting was initially scheduled for after the Dáil public accounts committee’s emergency meeting last Tuesday — the final day before the Dáil was dissolved for the general election.

However, due to the length of the five-hour meeting and Mr O’Brien’s media commitments that evening, it was agreed to delay the discussion until this week to provide ample time to examine the matter fully.

As previously revealed by the Irish Examiner, the controversy relates to a single foster care family in the south-east with whom at least 47 vulnerable minors with significant intellectual disabilities were placed between 1983 and 1995.

It is alleged that a number suffered severe sexual, physical, and financial abuse in the home, with the PAC making further disputed claims that what happened was the subject of a subsequent attempt by health service officials to cover it up.

When allegations were first made against the family— which took in people via the State, the Brothers of Charity and through private independent foster placements — in 1992, the then South Eastern Health Board opened an investigation.

Three years later, in 1995, the board agreed to ban all placements in the home and to find alternative accommodation for anyone who was already there on a full or part-time basis.

However, one woman subsequently given the pseudonym ‘Grace’ in media reports was left there until 2009, allegedly suffering severe abuse resulting in significant life-limiting injuries to her internal organs.

While two sets of health service officials recommended Grace be taken from the home in 1996, when she was 18 and no longer under the State’s remit, a third panel of three individuals — not named publicly — overruled this decision.

No explanation has been given for this move to date.

On Thursday, Finance Minister Michael Noonan confirmed he received a letter from the foster family as health minister in 1996.

Last week, it also emerged a second woman, called ‘Anne’, continued to be placed at the home until October 2013— four years after the ‘Grace’ case emerged.

The family of Anne, who was placed with the foster family from 1990 onwards on a part-time basis, were not told about the exact nature of the allegations against the home until 2013.

The HSE said this was because gardaí informed them they could only explain there were serious concerns due to the fact the placement was independent of the State and two detailed reports into what happened have yet to be published.

Meanwhile, the surviving member of the foster family at the centre of the dispute denied at the weekend that she or her relatives have done anything wrong.

The woman described the claims of severe sexual, physical, and financial abuse against individuals as lies and that nothing untoward happened at the home.

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