Residential care: a regulatory gap

Irish Times, 8th October 2018

Reports of alleged abuse of older people and persons with disabilities increased by almost 30 per cent in the past year

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A report in this newspaper that one in two
intellectually disabled residents in care centres in the Republic were
the subject of complaints of alleged abuse is disturbing. More than
4,600 allegations of abuse of disabled people in residential care were
reported last year, including 2,726 cases of alleged physical abuse. The
complaints, which were reported to the Health Information and Quality
Authority (Hiqa) by the country’s 1,109 care centres, also included
allegations of sexual, psychological and financial abuse by staff and
other residents.

Fine Gael
TD Fergus O’Dowd said he was concerned that some 298 unsolicited
complaints received by Hiqa were not forwarded to the Ombudsman. The
regulatory body has confirmed that all information it receives is
reviewed and receives a risk rating from its inspectorate.

Overall, reports of alleged abuse of older people and
persons with disabilities increased by almost 30 per cent in the past
year. There were 10,118 safeguarding concerns raised with the HSE in
2017, with the largest increase recorded for those aged 18 to 64. More
than two-thirds of concerns reported to the HSE’s national safeguarding
teams came from a service setting, with the rest emanating in the
community. Concerns about women were higher in all age groups.

In 2014, revelations about Áras Attracta in Co Mayo
led to three separate inquiries and promises that such occurrences would
be eradicated from our care system. And while Hiqa has cancelled the
registration of a number of disability centres and nursing homes, it is
clear that gaps in the regulatory system remain.

There are legislative shortcomings around the
protection of adults who may be vulnerable. One of the key pieces of
legislation needed to protect vulnerable people is the Adult
Safeguarding Bill. This legislation is essential to ensure the State
protects its vulnerable citizens and that cases of abuse and neglect
that still occur are addressed.

Hiqa’s remit is to police institutions rather than individual
complaints. This potential gap in regulation must be urgently addressed.

Published by Residential Forum

The Residential Forum is to promote the achievement of high standards of care and support for children and adults living in residential care and nursing homes, supported housing, residential schools and colleges, hospices and hostels. It contributes to improving the quality of service to the public. Members of the Forum are people of standing and experience drawn from the public, private and voluntary sectors, as well as some who can speak for service users and carers.

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