A charity running centres for people with intellectual disabilities has had to repay more than €265,000 of residents’ money that was taken through a “flawed” contribution scheme.
Internal investigations into Camphill Communities of Ireland, which operates 15 residential centres and is funded by the Health Service Executive (HSE), found residents at several centres had significant portions of their weekly disability allowance payments taken inappropriately.
More than €265,000 was taken from residents’ accounts and welfare payments and put towards general running costs or capital projects, which the reviews found that Camphill should repay.
The organisation had previously introduced a policy whereby residents would contribute up to half of their disability allowance to the running of the centres. However, the reviews found that for several years some centres were breaching the cap, with some residents having up to 80 per cent of their State welfare payments taken.
One review, completed last year, found the practice of seeking extra contributions from residents was “flawed” and lacked informed consent and proper financial accountability. The disability services provider has repaid €269,685 to residents over the inappropriate contributions, according to its latest financial accounts.
Concerns were first raised about residents’ payments in 2019, leading Camphill to commence a review of historical financial records.
In one centre more than €88,000 had been taken in excessive contributions, including nearly €20,000 from one individual, a review found. In another case €90,000 was taken from a group of eight residents to go towards a wellness centre that was never built.
One resident’s pension had been paid directly into a Camphill centre account for eight years in the 2000s, with a review finding the man was owed more than €40,000.
The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) said it had been engaging with Camphill over the “inappropriate” use of residents’ personal finances since it was informed of the issue in mid-2019.
In a statement, Camphill said it had transitioned from a volunteer-led model to being a “nationally governed organisation” in recent years, during which time it identified legacy issues at some centres.
The organisation determined the past payment of additional contributions by residents was not in line with its policies or principles “regardless of any extenuating or historic circumstances”. Camphill said all funds owed to residents had been repaid with the help of the HSE, and it had since enhanced its internal controls and oversight.
The organisation said it “continues to engage with families to ensure that residents have appropriate control over their money” in line with best practice.