Minister of State with special responsibility for Disabilities, Finian McGrath, TD, today (28th February 2017) welcomed the publication by the HSE of the Devine and Resilience reports into certain issues relating to a former foster home in the South East. This follows the Minister’s request to the HSE to engage with An Garda Síochána with a view to the publication of the reports without any further delay.
“From the outset, I have been mindful that at the heart of this matter is the care of vulnerable people who have relied on the State to look out for their best interests and our concerns that this care has not been of the quality which they had every right to expect” said the Minister.
The Minister continued “My intention in insisting on their publication is to place as much information as possible in the public domain on the results of the HSE’s investigations into the care provided in the former foster home and into the actions of the former South Eastern Health Board in arranging for and monitoring that care.”
The reviews published today were commissioned by the HSE into the care of the young woman with a disability who is sometimes referred to in the media as “Grace” (and is referred to as Service User 1 in the Conal Devine report) who resided from 1989 to 2009 in the former foster home which is at the centre of the abuse allegations.
The Minister is pleased that in advance of today’s publication, arrangements were put in place by the HSE to ensure the contents of the reports are conveyed in a meaningful way to affected service users with varying degrees of disability, and that dedicated teams have been put in place to provide all necessary assistance and supports to those impacted by the reports.
“I cannot emphasise too strongly how concerned I am about the serious allegations addressed in the reports and the need to establish the facts of the matter for once and for all. This is the least that the individuals at the centre of this case, and their families, deserve.
As a result, I intend to bring a Memorandum to Government next week regarding the establishment of a Commission of Investigation into matters which are the subject of these reports, and I also intend to bring the Terms of Reference to Government at the same time” said Minister McGrath. Under the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 the establishment of the Commission / Order will then require the approval of the Oireachtas.
The Minister concluded by noting that the HSE has not waited on the publication of the Devine report to implement its recommendations, and has put in place a number of changes in recent years to take account of the service and management deficiencies identified in the Conal Devine report into the former foster home. This includes the publication, in December 2014, of its national policy: Safeguarding Vulnerable Persons at Risk of Abuse – National Policy and Procedures.
The implementation of the National Policy on Safeguarding Vulnerable People and the system wide change programme across social care services is led by the National Task Force which is focused on ensuring quality and safety of all services through empowering and safeguarding vulnerable people. The change programme includes:
· National Policy on Safeguarding Vulnerable Persons at Risk of Abuse (to be reviewed in 2017)
· The National Safeguarding Committee – Independent Chair, Patricia Rickard-Clarke
· The Quality Improvement Enablement Programme
· The National Volunteer Advocacy Programme
· The Establishment of Family Fora – working with Inclusion Ireland
· Confidential Recipient – Leigh Gath
· National Taskforce Overseeing Implementation.
Moreover, the development of appropriate legislation to safeguard vulnerable adults in state care is currently under consideration. The Department of Health is liaising with the Office of the Attorney General with a view to asking the Law Reform Commission to conduct a scoping exercise on the nature of the legislation necessary for the safeguarding of vulnerable people and the promotion of their rights.
A joint HSE / Tusla Working Group was established in 2015 to review the operation and effectiveness of a joint protocol in place between the two organisations covering the provision of services to children and young adults with a disability or mental health issue who are leaving care and who receive services from both agencies.
Agreement has been reached on this protocol, and it will be approved and launched shortly, in cooperation with Tusla, the HSE, the Minister of State with responsibility for Disabilities and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.