Disability centre residents left at risk of ‘financial abuse’, Hiqa finds

Inspection of Camphill centre in Ballymoney, Co Wexford found ‘insufficient’ staffing levels

Residents with intellectual disabilities in a care home run by Camphill Communities remained at risk of "financial abuse" due to governance and oversight issues, an inspection by the State's healthcare watchdog has said.

Inspectors from the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) found there were "insufficient" numbers of staff on duty at the centre in Ballymoney, Co Wexford.

They noted that employees were “visibly under pressure” as two members of staff had not turned up on the day of the unannounced inspection. The centre’s manager told the inspectors they were down staff and “heavily reliant” on agency and relief workers to cover shifts.

A review by an external agency, commissioned by Camphill, had found residents were at risk of financial abuse, and Hiqa said improvements to related systems had not been made despite the warning.

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The regulator said there had been a “series of very poor inspection findings” in residential centres run by Camphill last year.

Due to concerns raised in the previous inspections, the provider was required to send Hiqa a comprehensive national improvement plan.

‘Compromised’

However, in a report following the inspection last February Hiqa stated there had been “very limited improvements” at the centre. It said the safeguarding of residents’ finances was “compromised” in the centre, with small differences between residents’ accounts and cash records in two cases.

The watchdog said that “serious national issues” had been raised before about residents’ finances in Camphill centres.

“The provider had specifically assured the chief inspector that financial safeguarding would be addressed as a matter of priority across their centres. This was not found to be have been completed in this centre,” the report said.

Hiqa also found in one case where alleged abuse of a resident had occurred, counselling was recommended but not provided.

The regulator noted poor Covid-19 infection control measures, with some staff not wearing face masks and only putting them on after the inspectors arrived.

The residential centre was found to be non-compliant with Hiqa standards across all 13 areas reviewed.

A separate inspection report into another Camphill centre in Kyle, Co Kilkenny, found the provider "failed to protect residents from all forms of abuse".

The Hiqa report, based on a March inspection, said not all residents in the home were safe and that some reported feeling anxious and concerned.

Failings of care

Previous inspections had found “irregular management of residents money”, and noted a number of residents were believed to be “owed a significant amount of money in redress”. The provider was also conducting an investigation into alleged failings of care in the case of one resident.

Despite “serious and concerning” issues regarding how residents’ medications were managed being highlighted previously, Hiqa inspectors said further “errors and inconsistencies” were identified.

Hiqa stated that significant non-compliance with standards had increased since a critical inspection last year, which was a concern. Following the two inspections Hiqa moved to cancel the centres’ registration to operate.

In a statement, Camphill Communities of Ireland expressed “sincere regret” for the shortcomings identified in the inspections, but added that “considerable progress” had since been made at the two centres.

Louise Gorman, interim chief executive, said Hiqa had inspected both facilities again last month and found "very significant improvements".

“As a result, they have now moved to re-register the two centres with a condition attached that they must be fully compliant with the regulations by January 2022,” she said.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times