Regulator warned disability services provider over ‘unsafe environment’ in residential homes

Hiqa warned Sunbeam House failure to address concerns could see two centres shut

The State healthcare regulator warned a provider of disability services that shortcomings in oversight were creating an “unsafe environment” in some of its residential care homes for people with disabilities.

Sunbeam House Services is based in Co Wicklow and runs a number of residential centres for adults with intellectual disabilities, as well as respite and day services.

In late July, the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) wrote to Sunbeam House over poor standards in two of its residential centres, Ard na Greine and Helensburgh.

Recent Hiqa inspections of its Ard na Greine centre had found there had been a “failure” to comply with required standards when it came to governance, management and protection of residents.


In the Helensburgh centre, the regulator said Sunbeam House was falling short when it came to risk management, governance, protection of residents and infection control.

In both cases Hiqa warned the disability provider if it did not improve standards in both centres, the regulator would consider shutting down the residential homes.

In a July 27th meeting discussing conditions in both of the centres, the regulator said shortcomings were negatively impacting on residents’ quality of life.

The regulator said poor oversight in Helensburgh centre was creating an “unsafe environment”, where there was a failure to prevent “safeguarding incidents”, minutes of the meeting said.

Hiqa said it was concerned about whether there was “consistent staffing” in the centre to manage a “known safeguarding risk”.

The meeting noted when inspectors visited the facility earlier that year there were three staff vacancies, with another staff member due to leave their job. As a result, Hiqa said agency and relief staff “were employed to fill the gaps however, not all shifts were covered at all times”.

The correspondence and minutes of meetings were released to The Irish Times following a Freedom of Information Act request.

There was a similar “unsafe environment” in the Ard na Greine centre, causing several residents to report their “unhappiness” about life in the care home.

“The inspector found, through conversations with residents, that not all residents felt comfortable living in the house and at times were anxious and afraid to be in the same room as other residents,” minutes noted.

Joe Lynch, Sunbeam House chief executive, said the matters raised by Hiqa were being addressed as part of an “agreed action plan” with the regulator.

In a statement, Mr Lynch said: “The staffing issue is a challenge for us and all similar services, however we are doing everything possible to resolve this as quickly as possible.”

Separately, Hiqa also raised concerns that some senior staff in the organisation were responsible for overseeing care standards in a large number of residential centres.

In early August, Sunbeam House informed the regulator a staff member had been appointed the designated “person in charge” of two of its centres.

In an August 9th email, Hiqa replied to state the staff member was already working in a management role over eight of Sunbeam House’s care homes.

The regulator queried whether the individual “has the capacity to ensure the effective governance, operational management and administration” of all the various residential centres they had responsibility to manage.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times