Residential services for thousands of people with disabilities face independent inspections

Hiqa will have power to investigate breaches in care from next month

 Kathleen Lynch, the Minister of State with responsibilty for disability, said the standards which provided the foundation for the inspection regime would help ensure services provide high-quality care.  Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Kathleen Lynch, the Minister of State with responsibilty for disability, said the standards which provided the foundation for the inspection regime would help ensure services provide high-quality care. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Thu, Oct 31, 2013, 01:01


Residential centres for more than 9,000 adults and children with disabilities will be subject to independent inspections for the first time from tomorrow.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) will be responsible for monitoring care standards in some 1,300 residential accommodation centres, mostly operated by the voluntary sector.

These units 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.

Increased powers
From November 1st, the authority will have the power to investigate the safety, quality and standards of residential settings. Each centre will face a minimum of two inspections every three years. Any centre which has a poor track record is likely to face more.

Failure to comply with standards may result in action being taken by Hiqa, which can include prosecution and, where there is risk to residents, immediate cancellation of the centre’s registration.

The move will involve at least 40 inspection and support staff and is likely to cost the State up to €3 million each year. Just over half of this will be raised from inspection fees.

Kathleen Lynch, the Minister of State with responsibilty for disability, said the standards which provided the foundation for the inspection regime would help ensure services provide high-quality care.

“For those who need residential services, these regulations will help ensure those services are provided safely,” she said.

The introduction of independent inspections follows pressure from groups such as Inclusion Ireland – the umbrella group for people with intellectual disabilities – which have been calling for care safeguards for almost 20 years.

Phelim Quinn, Hiqa’s director of regulations, said the beginning of the inspection regime was a landmark moment for disability services here.

He said the standards would provide those who used services, and their families, with a guide as to what they should expect from residential services.

Quality of life
The standards state that those in residential services should enjoy a good quality of life and live in a place that feels like their home.

Eight key themes cover areas such as users’ autonomy, privacy and dignity, and promotion of rights. They aim to facilitate choice and safeguard users from abuse.

Residents, for example, should be able to partake in decisions about themselves and have access to an advocate to speak or act on their behalf.

Providers must manage serious incidents and learn from things that go wrong. They must also employ enough staff with the skills and experience to work effectively with those with disabilities.

Most residential centres for people with disabilities are funded by the State and run by voluntary or religious groups. A number of private operators have also recently started providing this form of care.

There have been long-standing concerns over the lack of safeguards over the protection and welfare of residents.

These have been raised in reports commissioned by State agencies such as 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, 2010.

To download Hiqa’s national standards for residential services for children and adults with disabilities, visit hiqa.ie