Family of autistic man seeks extra supports from HSE

Family of autistic man seeks extra supports from HSE
The man, who is a ward of court, is sometimes violent to family members. Picture: iStock

The parents of a profoundly autistic man with serious behavioural difficulties are urgently seeking more supports from the HSE for him because they find the current situation “untenable”, the High Court has heard.

The man is sometimes violent to family members and his parents are so desperate they had contemplated seeking his admission to a hospital emergency department.

Aged in his 20s, the man is a ward of court and, during hearings this week aimed at addressing the situation, his mother was in tears and his father was also clearly upset.

The president of the High Court, Ms Justice Mary Irvine, said she could not know what the parents are going through but, as a parent herself, she could see from reading the evidence what it would mean for the man and the family to have adequate supports so they could have “a stable life”.

Having listened to concerns expressed on behalf of the parents when the case first came before the judge on Monday, the judge adjourned it to Tuesday to see if the HSE, pending identification of a suitable placement, could provide additional supports beyond a proposed three-hour supports over four days during the week and a further three hours on Saturdays.

On Tuesday, David Leahy BL, for the HSE, said more progress had been achieved overnight. There was no issue about providing funding to address the situation and, pending further assessment and locating a suitable placement, the HSE is offering an interim residential placement from Monday to Friday over the next four weeks where the man would be looked after by trained staff on a one to one basis. 

Because of difficulties in sourcing suitable qualified staff for weekends, the man would have to be at home from Friday evening to Monday morning but the HSE would continue its efforts and “everything that can happen will happen”, counsel stressed.

 

The interim proposal did not involve providing interventions for the man but would provide an opportunity for the situation to stabilise, he added.

Natalie McDonnell, for the committee representing the man, said the family are very grateful for the HSE's efforts to date and the sides were co-operating in trying to address the difficulties. A detailed assessment obtained by the parents last January had stated the man needs an autism-specific service and the parents believed what is necessary now is intervention.

The problem with the latest proposal is that it involves the man, after spending five days weekly in a low-stimulus environment with one-to-one supports, returning to a normal busy family situation without a similar level of support, counsel said. 

When the man returned from previous respite situations, he had displayed heightened behaviours creating risks for the family.

The parents are not refusing the offer and will “take anything that will ameliorate the situation”, counsel stressed.

The judge said the bona fides of the HSE are not in doubt and she was very impressed with its “quite remarkable” efforts in this and other cases to come up with solutions. 

The immediate issue was how the court might ensure the situation does not unwind when the man returns home at weekends. It seemed that increasing the level of support provided at weekends might help address the immediate situation. 

While not an expert, she would have thought five to six hours support would be required each weekend day, she added.

Adjourning the matter to later this week, she said the court would continue to monitor the situation while the HSE uses its best endeavours to improve it.

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