Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has described a response from the Taoiseach to a letter Teachta Adams sent to him in July, calling on the government to urgently establish a public inquiry into the running of centres for citizens with intellectual disabilities, as “woefully inadequate”.
The Louth TD originally proposed this approach to Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dáil in March when Teachta Adams raised concerns about the Redwood Centre at Stamullen. He repeated it later when similar concerns were raised about St. Mary’s Drumcar in Louth.
Teachta Adams said:
“There is a real and significant crisis in the provision of care for citizens with intellectual disabilities. The government is failing to deal with this in an appropriate and urgent manner and Enda Kenny’s reply to me is evidence of this.
Today HIQA has reported “major non-compliance” in two more residential centres for adults and children with intellectual disabilities. Both centres are part of the St. Patrick’s campus in Kilkenny. According to HIQA the adult centre is understaffed, poorly maintained, unclean and has an inadequate fire safety plan. HIQA reports that St. Michael’s centre failed to comply in respect of 11 of the 18 regulatory headings reviewed.
In respect of the second centre, which provides for children as young as five, HIQA reported concerns over healthcare and medication, governance and staffing.
The grave issues of concern raised in these two reports are regrettably not isolated cases. There have been a whole series of HIQA and media reports in the last year, beginning with the Aras Attracta RTE report that have highlighted serious concerns around the management, resourcing, funding and staff behaviour in care centres across the state caring for citizens with intellectual disabilities.
Last month I wrote to the Taoiseach asking that the government urgently establish an Independent Inquiry into the widespread public concerns at the care provision in homes for citizens with intellectual disabilities.
In his letter to me the Taoiseach claims that the government “takes the care of vulnerable people in the health service extremely seriously” but he then ignores the implications of a significant number of critical HIQA reports into care homes.
In his response the Taoiseach also says that the Department of Health “has requested the HSE to develop action plans to address cases where HIQA has raised serious concerns regarding the level of care that people with a disability are receiving … including safeguarding the human rights of residents.”
Mr. Kenny’s letter claims that the “HSE is implementing a comprehensive change programme of measures to improve the quality and safety of residential services for people with disabilities.”
However, at the same time as the Taoiseach pens this letter HIQA has announced that 20 disability centres have received notice of proposals to cancel or refuse their applications for registration and have been given 28 days to make improvements and satisfy HIQA that immediate improvements will be made.
In April HIQA’s Chief Executive Phelim Quinn told a conference by Inclusion Ireland that the standard of care in some residential centres was “disturbing and chilling”.
He specifically blamed the congregational settings of these homes, that is centres where 10 or more citizens living in circumstances where they share a single living unit or where the living arrangements are campus based.
In its first year of this government the HSE published a report that committed the government to moving away from congregational living arrangements. The report said that the citizens affected by these arrangements are living in conditions where they “lack basic privacy and dignity.” The HSE report concluded that congregated provision is in breach of the state’s obligations under UN Conventions.
Four years later there are 3000 citizens still living in these unacceptable conditions.
There is an urgent need for the government to establish as a matter of urgency a fully Independent, root-and-branch inquiry into all care facilities for citizens with intellectual disabilities in the State. The Taoiseach’s letter provides no reassurance that the necessary steps will be taken to deal with this recurring and deepening crisis.