Camhs controversy: compensation scheme for Kerry mental health services opened

HSE has written to those identified in report on child and adolescent mental health services

The Government has opened a compensation scheme for children and families who suffered harm as a result of failings in mental health care in south Kerry.

The Health Service Executive has written to those identified as affected in a report on south Kerry child and adolescent mental health services (Camhs) published in January, according to minister of state for mental health Mary Butler.

This follows a decision by Cabinet earlier this month to approve a non-adversarial compensation scheme for affected children and families. Ms Butler said they will receive details of the scheme this week.

The scheme, to be operated by the State Claims Agency, is open only to those identified in the report written by Dr Sean Maskey has having suffered some level of harm. This covered the period July 2016 to April 2021.

“It is designed to provide full compensation in line with a court ruling, but without the stress of court proceedings,” Ms Butler said on Tuesday.

Dr Maskey examined the treatment of more than 1,300 young people who attended the South Kerry Camhs over a four-year period, after concerns were raised by a whistleblower.

His review found hundreds of children received “risky” treatment from a doctor and significant harm was caused to 46 of them. The risks involved in the treatment by the doctor included sleepiness, dulled feelings, slowed thinking and serious weight gain and distress.

Under the scheme, the SCA will make a €5,000 payment to eligible applicants to cover initial expenses. Liability is not contested, and the level of compensation may be agreed in a mediation process.

Mediator

The decision of the mediator can be reviewed, by retired High Court president Mr Justice Peter Kelly.

Applicants can obtain an expert report from one of a panel of expert psychiatrists established for the scheme. This report will be accepted by the SCA for the purposes of mediation.

Where an applicant does not wish to obtain a report from the panel, they can commission a report “from elsewhere” but the SCA reserves the right to commission an expert report from the panel, according to the HSE.

The State will pay “reasonable costs” for legal representation under the scheme and any dispute over costs will be referred to a legal costs accountant for adjudication.

Affected children and families are free to take legal action through the court instead of availing of the compensation scheme, but the State argues the scheme will produce quicker results and a similar level of compensation.

The children and families involved can apply to the scheme via the HSE through their appointed solicitor.

Ms Butler described the Maskey report as “a shocking and disturbing revelation” involving “serious failures” in care. She said the scheme was designed to minimise the stress involved in securing compensation.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times

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