Residential centres for disabled to face inspections
Health Information and Quality Authority will monitor care standards in centres
Kathleen Lynch, the Minister of State responsible for disability, said a set of standards is being finalised against which inspectors will judge the quality of accommodation. Photograph: Alan Betson
Residential centres for almost 5,000 adults and children with disabilities will be subject to independent inspections for the first time from September onwards. The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) will be responsible for monitoring care standards in residential accommodation centres, which are mostly operated by the voluntary sector.
These facilities have not been subject to State inspections or care regulations, despite evidence which shows that children with learning disabilities face a much higher risk of abuse or mistreatment than the general population.
The new move will involve hiring at least 25 additional inspection staff and is likely to cost the State up to €5 million each year, according to Government sources.
The residential centres are mostly funded by the State and run by voluntary or religious groups. In addition, a number of private operators have recently started providing this form of care.
Kathleen Lynch, the Minister of State responsible for disability, said a set of standards is being finalised against which inspectors will judge the quality of accommodation.
“At the end of the day, no matter how good an organisation is, it is vitally important to have an independent body that is helping to ensure that vulnerable people are protected,” she said. “If families are unable to care for someone in a private capacity, then they need assurances that their wellbeing is monitored.”
A spokesman for Hiqa confirmed that new standards had been finalised and discussions were at an advantaged stage over how the inspections regime will be implemented.
Draft national standards for residential centres for adults and children with disabilities were published last year.
These standards are based on principles that will guide residential centres in providing quality, safe and effective care and support in partnership with people living in, or using, residential care services.
These principles involve the person always being at the centre of their care and support service, and being enabled to live with dignity, choice and personal autonomy.
Proper leadership, skilled and experienced staff and the effective management of resources in the centre are also central to ensuring residential services deliver on this vision.
The introduction of independent inspections follows sustained pressure from groups such as Inclusion Ireland – the umbrella group for people with intellectual disabilities – which have been calling for care safeguards for almost two decades.
In addition, official reports commissioned by State agencies have raised concerns over the lack of safeguards for people with disabilities in residential care. These include the McCoy report into Brothers of Charity Services in Galway in 2009; the Irish Human Rights Commission’s inquiry in 2010; and the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse in 2010.
In total, there are an estimated 1,700 residential centres of varying size where people with disabilities reside.
The move comes at a time of significant change for disability service providers, which are under pressure to provide more community-based residential care.
It is Government policy to close all institutions – or “congregated settings” – within seven years. They house an estimated 5,000 people with physical or intellectual disabilities.