Care staff in ‘Grace’ case to face disciplinary proceedings

Taoiseach: Treatment of woman in foster home ‘a disgrace’

Speaking at the launch of the two HSE commissioned reports in Kilkenny, officials suggested the Government needs to consider changes that would allow the HSE carry out speedier investigations of staff implicated in serious care failings.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Speaking at the launch of the two HSE commissioned reports in Kilkenny, officials suggested the Government needs to consider changes that would allow the HSE carry out speedier investigations of staff implicated in serious care failings. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Disciplinary proceedings are to begin immediately into staff implicated in care failings identified in two reports on abuse allegations at a southeast foster home, the Health Service Executive has promised.

The HSE says the publication of the reports into the alleged abuse of “Grace” and other intellectually disabled people who stayed at the home has cleared the way for its disciplinary processes to get under way.

The Devine report, published on Tuesday after a delay of five years, found no one in the HSE did anything about the concerns of day services, who reported bruising on Grace’s body and evidence of sexualised behaviour. Grace stayed at the home for 14 years after an allegation of sexual abuse was made in relation to another resident, but no one in the HSE looked into the reasons why she was not moved many years earlier, it said.

Just five of the 30-40 staff mentioned in the Devine report, and a separate Resilience Ireland report into other allegations about the foster home, are still working with the HSE, it confirmed on Tuesday. The remaining staff, who have retired or are working elsewhere, are not therefore subject to HSE disciplinary processes.

Tusla staff

“We have met with staff concerned to advise them of the publication of the reports and have completed an initial HR review process.”

If any issues emerged as a result of a review of staff involvement, further HR processes would be invoked as necessary, she said.

The HSE was unable to say how long its investigation into staff would take. Existing policy in the health service provides for sanctions to be applied, where appropriate, ranging from admonishment up to dismissal.

Speaking at the launch of the two HSE commissioned reports in Kilkenny, officials suggested the Government needs to consider changes that would allow the HSE carry out speedier investigations of staff implicated in serious care failings.

Apology

HSE officials also issued a “heartfelt and unreserved” apology, and admitted it was “patently obvious” Grace should have been moved earlier. However, they denied there was any evidence of a cover-up after whistleblowers raised their concerns through protected disclosure legislation.

Minister of State with special responsibility for disability Finian McGrath said he would be bringing a memo to Cabinet next week to provide for the establishment of a commission of investigation into the issue. This will require the approval of the Oireachtas.

Mr McGrath admitted the care provided to Grace and other residents of the foster home had not been “of the quality which they had every right to expect” but insisted the HSE has since improved the way it cares for vulnerable people.

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuiness, who with his Fine Gael counterpart John Deasy, highlighted the Grace case at the Dáil public accounts committee, said the reports contained nothing new. “They set out the procedures in place at the time but they do not address what exactly happened in relation to the whistleblowers – how they were treated, why they were obstructed and why the abuse went on for 21 years.”

Mr McGuinness said he didn’t accept there was no cover-up. “It’s frightening. Everything moves too slowly. At that time, no one cried stop and today no one is accepting responsibility.”