Ten staff at care facility suspended pending investigation

Stewarts Care says external investigation team is examining abuse allegations

The HSE said its head of operations of disability services, Marion Meany, has been in discussion with Stewarts regarding the concerns raised “and has been fully briefed as to their action plan”.

The HSE said its head of operations of disability services, Marion Meany, has been in discussion with Stewarts regarding the concerns raised “and has been fully briefed as to their action plan”.

Tue, Dec 10, 2013, 01:00

Ten staff members at a care facility for people with intellectual disabilities have been suspended pending an investigation into allegations over the standard of care provided to residents.

Students who were on placement at the Stewarts Care organisation in Dublin have made a series of allegations relating to neglectful or abusive practices in relation to the way services were provided to clients by nurses and care staff.

In response to queries from The Irish Times, a spokesman for Stewarts Care Ltd confirmed that allegations had been made and it was working with the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) to address the issues. In addition, an external investigation team has been established to examine the allegations.

Informed sources say the abusive incidents alleged to have occurred include shower doors not being closed while individuals were being showered, clients being locked out of their bungalows and individuals being spoken of as if they were not present.

Paddy Connolly, chief executive of Inclusion Ireland – the umbrella group for people with intellectual disabilities – said the allegations and number of staff suspended raised disturbing questions.

“We’re very concerned about these allegations which must be very upsetting for family members, who don’t know what is going on,” he said.

“The number of people suspended speaks of the wider culture of these organisations and poses questions about whether these are systemic issues.”

It is understood the incidents highlighted by the students occurred at the end of last year and in the early part of 2013. Some parents of young people with intellectual disabilities have also been told by Stewarts about the allegations which have been made.

Stewarts, which developed out of Stewarts Hospital in Palmerstown, Dublin provides extensive on-site and community-based services for clients. The organisation supports more than 300 residents, and provides services for some 600 clients including children and adult day attenders. It also offers a full range of pre-school services for two- to five-year-old children with a developmental delay.

It is understood concerns were raised by a number of students from Trinity College Dublin who had been on placement in its intellectual disability services. They claimed that some of the situations they witnessed could constitute abuse.

The HSE said its head of operations of disability services, Marion Meany, has been in discussion with Stewarts regarding the concerns raised “and has been fully briefed as to their action plan”.

The allegations have come at a time when residential centres for more than 9,000 adults and children with disabilities are being subject to independent inspections for the first time.

Since November, Hiqa is responsible for monitoring care standards in some 1,300 residential accommodation centres, mostly operated by the voluntary sector.

Until recently these units were not subject to State inspections or care regulations, despite evidence which shows that people with learning disabilities face a much higher risk of abuse or mistreatment than the general population.

The introduction of independent inspections follows pressure from groups such as Inclusion Ireland, which have been calling for care safeguards for almost 20 years.