Mental health watchdog criticises ‘poorly maintained’ residences

Inspector says State facilities fail to respect privacy and dignity of many residents

Many State facilities are not respectful of residents ‘ privacy, dignity and autonomy’. Photograph: iStock

Many State facilities are not respectful of residents ‘ privacy, dignity and autonomy’. Photograph: iStock

 

The mental health watchdog has issued a scathing report into conditions in many of the State’s community residences for mentally ill or intellectually disabled people.

The Mental Health Commission has published reports into 43 of the country’s 118 community residences. The reports cover residences which accommodate 500 of the 1,300 people who live in such settings.

This is the first publication of inspection reports and is part of a three-year programme which will see the inspection of all residents which are supervised on a 24-hour basis.

In recent decades patients with long-term mental health issues have been moved out of large psychiatric hospitals into 24-hour supervised residences.

Community residences are a half-way house between traditional psychiatric institutions and living a normal life.

The commission has statutory inspection rights for all such institutions, but does not have regulatory power.

Commission chairman John Saunders called on the Government to regulate such settings.

He said people with mental health issues should ideally have a “care pathway” which allows them to move from hospital settings into more independent living arrangements.

However, he said there was a “serious lack of provision of suitable accommodation options, and rehabilitation and recovery staff to enable service users to move through the different stages of recovery and progress towards the goal of independent community based living, and many people have to remain in highly supported accommodation”.

Commission inspector Dr Susan Finnerty said many of the most vulnerable people in the country are being accommodated in “unregulated, poorly maintained residences, that are too big, are institutionalised, restrictive and are not respectful of their privacy, dignity and autonomy”.

The inspections found 58 per cent of community residences have more than the maximum recommended allocation of 10 beds.

Only 44 per cent of residences were in good physical condition and one in five needs urgent maintenance and refurbishment.

Privacy was another major issue with only 59 per cent of residences offering all residents single room accommodation.

Of the rest, two residences had bedrooms which catered for four people and in residences with shared rooms, 58 per cent had no privacy between beds or within bedrooms.

The commission found in 77 per cent of premises inspected that bedroom doors were unlocked leaving residents vulnerable to attack.

In one out of seven residential premises, doors are locked and residents are not free to leave their bedrooms at night.