Minister apologises for HSE’s failure to talk to family of ward of court sent to UK

Fine Gael Senator questions health service structures that allows ‘no oversight, feedback or care plan’

Minister of State for Disability Anne Rabbitte has apologised in the Dáil “for the lack of engagement, communication and consultation” with the family of a 29-year-old man who is a ward of court and was transferred by the HSE to a healthcare facility in the UK 18 months ago.

She was responding to Fine Gael Senator Mary Seery Kearney, who raised the case that had “no oversight, feedback or care plan. It seems that because he is 29, a decision has been made that his family does not merit any information.” And that seemed “a most extraordinary situation”.

Ms Seery Kearney said the young man was first diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and then with autism “but only in the last year has also been diagnosed with an intellectual disability”.

The family visits their son and brother regularly at St Andrew’s Healthcare in England but the experience “is like going to a prison, given the number of stages they have to go through” before they get to visit him.


She said “nobody feels any obligation to tell them anything about their son and brother” and she questioned “the structures within the HSE that would allow such a lack of oversight”. The young man “is very interested in sports but has no access to sport or to watching it on television”, and when the family asks questions, “neither the HSE nor St Andrew’s Healthcare are responding”.

The man’s mother “saved money from her wages every week for all of his life” but bank accounts have been frozen. “She cannot access that bank account to buy him a TV.”

Ms Seery Kearney said nobody “is liaising with this family and giving them feedback. There appears to be no care plan.”

The Senator said the man was told by the HSE that he was going to the UK for two years. “That two-year deadline is coming up shortly and he is obsessed with the idea that he is coming home then but nobody knows anything about it.

“He is not in a position to engage with the progress of his care or to know what exactly is happening and he is not getting any feedback. There is no point of contact for the family. They have no idea of the set-up and from a mental health perspective, their view is that he has deteriorated in that time.”

Ms Seery Kearney added that the man is in a secure ward “but his preference is to be at home in his own house with his family. That may not be possible. The HSE needs to engage with the family.”

The Minister said she did not know the diagnosis and did not know what treatment was being made available. She added that “if the family are watching now or will watch the recording later, I acknowledge their involvement in their son or brother’s care.

“I have to apologise for the lack of engagement, communication and consultation with the family,” adding that she would take more details from Ms Seery Kearney afterwards.

She said that if there is a timeline on the case and “this young man wants to return home, as is his will and preference, that is what the decision support service is all about”.

A framework has been developed “as part of a HSE-wide requirement to ensure that appropriate governance arrangements underpin the release of the funding of agencies”, Ms Rabbitte added.

“But to be honest, I hear a lot about the framework, but I do not hear about where the engagement takes place between the various bodies and families.”

Describing the case as “extreme” Ms Rabbitte said “it is important that the young man concerned is supported as close to home as possible. Consultation and communication needs to happen.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times