If you’ve ever self-isolated during a mild Covid infection, you will probably recall the confinement to your room as the worst aspect of it.
For that reason, I was struck by a piece by Kitty Holland on the 25-day confinement (not due to Covid) of two young teenagers in a home for children with disabilities in Co Monaghan. I was also struck by the muted public and political response.
Quoting Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) findings, Holland’s article reports that two of the residents were confined to the first floor of their home for 25 days “without any alternative being considered”.
The source of the problem at Woodbrook Lodge, run by MMC Children’s Services Limited, was that the lift had been out of order since December 31st. This wasn’t the first time: it had been out of order for 34 days in July and August.
It all makes the average Covid isolation period sound like a short weekend.
Although staff had apparently raised concerns about the situation, the provider “had not responded appropriately to either incident and had not put in place alternative arrangements” – and had also not notified Hiqa as required.
The families of people with disabilities put a lot of their time and energy into running from pillar to post to get services for their children or siblings
The home can cater for four residents in all. The residents affected engaged in limited activities on the landing. However, the two young people had not been able to attend school, and one resident had missed a necessary appointment, because they could not get down the stairs except in an emergency, according to Hiqa.
In a compliance plan submitted to Hiqa, MMC Children’s Services said two of the bedrooms have been relocated to the ground floor and staff have received fire safety and evacuation training.
Somehow, we don’t seem to get energised by reports of defects in disability services. Is it an outcome of a growing population that the impact of these reports has become dispersed?
I mention this because of the public and political outcry following the publication of reports in The Irish Times in the 1960s of conditions in industrial schools. The reports were by Michael Viney, whose death I heard of while writing this article. The outcry led to fundamental and lasting change.
Strong action now requires hard work by what used to be called “pressure groups”. The families of people with disabilities put a lot of their time and energy into running from pillar to post to get services for their children or siblings. People with disabilities themselves often lack resources to do this kind of work. Also, it is harder to get your voice heard today in the crowd.
That said, some work is being done. Access For All Ireland has a very active campaign on Twitter. It gets down to the nitty-gritty of electronic information boards without information, disability toilets where the hand drier is out of reach and doesn’t work anyway, cars parked on footpaths, and lifts being out of order in train stations. The account also retweets posts from the Scoliosis Advocacy Network and other advocacy and campaigning groups. TCD Independent Senator Dr Tom Clonan has made disability one of the areas on which he campaigns.
Disabled persons’ toilets that are also used as storage spaces for cleaning equipment can put some people off taking the risk of going out at all
The issues mentioned here have one theme in common: confinement.
You may be a wheelchair user whose health allows you to go out and about, but a car parked on a footpath can put a quick stop to that.
A lift out of order at a train station can bring a premature end to a planned day out with friends.
Disabled persons’ toilets that are also used as storage spaces for cleaning equipment can put some people off taking the risk of going out at all.
If society in general and our political parties don’t get upset enough to make a row when Hiqa reports come out highlighting defects that people with disabilities just shouldn’t have to put up with, how can we clear the way to a better future?
- Padraig O’Morain (Instagram, Twitter: @padraigomorain) is accredited by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. His books include Acceptance – create change and move forward; his daily mindfulness reminder is available free by email (email@example.com).