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HSE accused of ignoring failings in disability homes

State watchdog Hiqa inspectors witness ‘inhumane or degrading treatment’

Hiqa said it was seriously concerned about standards in disability services run or funded by the HSE. Photograph: The Irish Times

A State watchdog has accused the HSE of turning a blind eye to failings in disability homes, including degrading and inhumane treatment of residents.

In a confidential report sent to the Government, the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) said while Ireland has not ratified the UN’s Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, its inspectors witnessed what could be viewed as “inhumane or degrading treatment”.


The report, released to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act, stated the HSE “may be aware of significant service failings” in certain centres but continued to fund them. “The funding of these services has remained unquestioned on the basis that no one else is available to take over the running of these services,” it says.

Hiqa said it was seriously concerned about standards in disability services run or funded by the HSE and said human rights were being denied in certain services where a “strong culture of neglectful care exists”.

Elsewhere, the report found the “negative, institutionalised culture” witnessed by its inspectors in certain disability homes “may in fact constitute institutional abuse”. It received specific information about allegations of staff abuse of residents in four HSE centres.


In a response to questions put to it, a spokesman for the HSE said it “fully recognised” the challenges facing some residential services, in particular large institutional settings.

It said it implemented a “no-tolerance approach to any form of abuse or neglect” and had taken “swift action” to address the allegations of staff abuse of residents at the four centres cited in the Hiqa report.

The HSE said it was working with other HSE divisions and service providers to implement a programme of improvement to ensure the areas of concern identified by the watchdog are “urgently addressed” and to mitigate immediate risks.

He said a quality improvement team had visited 159 houses or units in HSE residential services for adults with intellectual disabilities to ensure the delivery of quality and safe services. He said the recent announcement of €450 million in additional capital resources over a five-year period would accelerate the transfer of people out of congregated settings.

The Department of Health said it worked closely with the HSE and Hiqa in relation to the “serious issues raised” and requested the HSE develop action plans to address the issues.