The Irish Times view on residential care: a regulatory gap

Reports of alleged abuse of older people and persons with disabilities increased by almost 30 per cent in the past year

More than 4,600 allegations of abuse of disabled people in residential care were reported last year, including 2,726 cases of alleged physical abuse.

More than 4,600 allegations of abuse of disabled people in residential care were reported last year, including 2,726 cases of alleged physical abuse.

 

A report in this newspaper that one in two intellectually disabled residents in care centres in the Republic were the subject of complaints of alleged abuse is disturbing. More than 4,600 allegations of abuse of disabled people in residential care were reported last year, including 2,726 cases of alleged physical abuse. The complaints, which were reported to the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) by the country’s 1,109 care centres, also included allegations of sexual, psychological and financial abuse by staff and other residents.

Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd said he was concerned that some 298 unsolicited complaints received by Hiqa were not forwarded to the Ombudsman. The regulatory body has confirmed that all information it receives is reviewed and receives a risk rating from its inspectorate.

Overall, reports of alleged abuse of older people and persons with disabilities increased by almost 30 per cent in the past year. There were 10,118 safeguarding concerns raised with the HSE in 2017, with the largest increase recorded for those aged 18 to 64. More than two-thirds of concerns reported to the HSE’s national safeguarding teams came from a service setting, with the rest emanating in the community. Concerns about women were higher in all age groups.

In 2014, revelations about Áras Attracta in Co Mayo led to three separate inquiries and promises that such occurrences would be eradicated from our care system. And while Hiqa has cancelled the registration of a number of disability centres and nursing homes, it is clear that gaps in the regulatory system remain.

There are legislative shortcomings around the protection of adults who may be vulnerable. One of the key pieces of legislation needed to protect vulnerable people is the Adult Safeguarding Bill. This legislation is essential to ensure the State protects its vulnerable citizens and that cases of abuse and neglect that still occur are addressed.

Hiqa’s remit is to police institutions rather than individual complaints. This potential gap in regulation must be urgently addressed.

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