All children identified by the Maskey report as having suffered harm whilst being treated by Camhs in South Kerry will be eligible for compensation, Minister of State for Mental Health Mary Butler has said.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland Ms Butler said the scheme will run to “many millions of euro”.
The scheme, to be operated by the State Claims Agency (SCA), 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.
The review in to the Kerry Camhs service was published in January. It revealed that 240 children did not receive the correct treatment and that significant harm was caused to 46 of them.
However, Ms Butler said on Wednesday the number of recipients may change if other children, who suffered harm by Camhs in South Kerry, come forward.
“There could be further children who suffered harm that may become known to us ... they will also be included in the scheme. So the Maskey report recognised 240 children but that number may change”.
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.
Ms Butler said that the Government “will not be found wanting” to ensure that those affected will get what they deserve in compensation for the harm caused to them.
“However, I am not going to pre-empt what any individual will receive. Each case is individual, each child and each teenager is unique and they will be assessed in their own right so there is not a set figure for a set time you were over medicated.
“Some children were in the care of Camhs for four years. Some were one year or two years. It won’t work like that.
She said each case will be determined by child psychiatrists. “There will be an independent expert psychiatrist. There is a panel put in place of eight independent expert psychiatrists. They will put in place an expert clinical report.”
Ms Butler said that she wanted to reassure parents that they will not have to get a report from an expert on that particular panel.
“They can get their own. And that is the reason why €5,000 in an upfront payment is being made available to support families who may not have the means or the appetite to take on a legal process.”
She said such a report will not be contested. However, the State Claims Agency will also be in the position to obtain an independent report of their own on any individual case. In the event of differing opinions in the reports a mediator will be appointed.
Ms Butler said that they are trying to make the process as stress free, quick and non-adversarial as possible for families.
“It is not adversarial. This [what occurred] was shocking and disturbing. We moved very quickly to put in place this scheme to support families who have been to hell and back over the last four and five years.”
A solicitor who is representing families impacted by failings in mental health care in south Kerry has welcomed the compensation scheme.
Keith Rolls, of Coleman Legal, says that families welcome the opening payment of €5,000 to cover initial expenses. He told Morning Ireland that his clients had experienced considerable trauma and that there was little appetite amongst them for protracted High Court proceedings.
“We welcome this compensation scheme because this isn’t dealing with a broken arm that a young child has suffered playing a game of football. This is a child or children who have unfortunately been sedated for three or four years, who have spent this time in their bedroom, who haven’t been able to attend school. Who have lost all their friends. Who don’t participate in the community. The impact has been really staggering.
“It is very upsetting for the families as you can imagine. But now the fact that the compensation scheme has been put in place I am sure the families will appreciate that. From our perspective it is a very positive step.”
Mr Rolls said in addition to considerable emotional pain and suffering many families have experienced financial loss as a result of the over-medication of their children. They have had to give up work or reduce their hours in an effort to assist deeply impacted young people
“Unfortunately, a lot of these families have found it very difficult over the years to stay in employment due to the fact that they have been effectively providing care for their families and loved ones as a result of the treatment and the medication their children have been on.
Mr Rolls said there is still some apprehension about how details reports can be because of missing medical files.
“There is [sic] concerns and I know the families are concerned about how detailed and thorough these reports can be due to the volume of missing medical records that we have been made aware of.”
Among those impacted by the over-prescribing was 14-year-old Jason O’Connell from Cahersiveen. His father Maurice previously told the Irish Times of his his immense pain and anger after his son transformed from a happy, bubbly child in to a “zombie” after he was prescribed a “cocktail of drugs” to treat his ADHD by a junior doctor in Kerry Camhs.
Mr O’Connell said his son “lost his smile and his happy go lucky self” and was “letting out roars and screeches” when he was on too much medication. They were on suicide watch for much of the time Jason was over-medicated by a doctor who is no longer with Kerry Camhs.