Visually impaired resident assaulted daily at Wicklow disability centre

Inspectors at Dublin centre had to be locked in office during unrest

The visually impaired resident  suffered ‘consistent’ peer-to-peer assault, with their head and neck repeatedly grabbed by other residents. Photograph: Getty images

The visually impaired resident suffered ‘consistent’ peer-to-peer assault, with their head and neck repeatedly grabbed by other residents. Photograph: Getty images


A visually impaired resident at a disability service in Wicklow was subjected to daily assaults by peers which went unaddressed by staff, an inspection report has found.

The resident at the four-bed Tús Nua facility in Wicklow suffered “consistent” peer-to-peer assault, with incidents happening up to five times a day.

Inspectors from the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) found evidence that the same intellectually disabled resident had become distressed after having their head and neck repeatedly grabbed by other residents.

Officials from the health watchdog noted that the operator of the facility, Sunbeam House Services, “failed to respond and take effective action to protect the resident”, whose case notes indicated the person was “not at risk” from others.

Risk management systems were poor, and there was no evidence that the high number of assaults was being escalated to senior management as an urgent issue.

The visit by Hiqa was prompted by concerns over a pattern of incidents identified during previous inspections at the centre.

An immediate direction by inspectors to rectify the issue led to some improvement during a second day of unannounced inspections in October 2017, but there continued to be an issue with agency staff who were less skilled at dealing with challenging behaviour from residents.

Elsewhere, an inspection team at an adult disability care facility run by Stewarts Care in Palmerstown, south Dublin had to be locked into a staff office during an announced inspection of the 21-bed centre in July due to violent outbursts by residents.

Two residents were forced to retreat to their bedrooms for safety during the episode, and a staff member told inspectors that service users felt “afraid” due to the fraught atmosphere.

Other occurrences witnessed by visiting officials included further examples of peer-to-peer physical abuse, as well as residents biting one another and drinking from a bathroom sink.

The report released on Monday was the fifth compiled by Hiqa in relation to the centre, which was subjected to further scrutiny last year after the watchdog received unsolicited correspondence containing concerns over safeguarding and safety practices.

Welfare concerns

There were also worries over privacy and welfare with reports that residents were raiding each other’s wardrobes and throwing clothes out the window, while some toilet facilities did not have soap and towels.

Inappropriate sexualised behaviour by residents was also observed, with one individual who repeatedly de-robed in a living room area during the visit having to be re-dressed by staff on five occasions.

Inspectors viewed incident records for the centre which detailed 36 cases of physical and verbal aggression between residents and intimidation.

Both the person in charge and the facility’s director of care admitted that residents were not safe in the circumstances witnessed during the visit by Hiqa.

Adverse findings were also made in relation to the Vevay Close disability centre in Wicklow after inspectors heard evidence of staff there having received injuries including bite marks, hair pulls and concussions from their interactions with service users.

This was in addition to concerns over the safety of residents, two of whom became embroiled in a physical fight in one instance due to a row over money.

The manager of the centre was absent on the day of the inspection having sustained a workplace injury. Again, the visit was prompted following receipt of unsolicited information by Hiqa that raised questions over the safety of those living in the facility.

Complaints logged on the day of the follow-up inspection in October included accusations that some residents lived in fear of their peers.

Staff refused to engage in intimate personal care for some residents due to the risk of injury, and these duties were instead being carried out by their parents in some instances.