THE WHISTLEBLOWER AT the centre of an abuse scandal at a foster home in the southeast, has delivered a withering criticism of the management culture in place at the HSE.
It emerged recently that a young woman with intellectual disabilities, known as Grace, was placed in the home in the southeast of the country, despite an allegation of sexual assault having been made by a former resident. She spent 14 further years in the foster home after the allegation was made in 1995, and 20 years in total.
Yesterday HSE director general Tony O’Brien also confirmed that another young person remained in the home after the removal of ‘Grace’ in 2009.
Speaking to Claire Byrne Live this evening the whistleblower, a social worker, said that she has concern “for every family who has a child with an intellectual disability”.
“How can they trust the system with their child?” she said.
I don’t think that I can reassure them.
There needs to be an absolute change in culture at the HSE – they need to acknowledge when they’ve failed people, and they need to stop trying to silence whistleblowers.
The whistleblower, who has remained anonymous in order to protect Grace’s identity, first raised her concerns with the HSE in 2009.
“It has been a long six years. We took this to the very top echelons of HSE management – all we achieved was endless inquiries and reviews, reviews of reviews, a mini industry sprung up around the 47 families who were involved with that home,” she said.
We still don’t have one finding, not one answer. In 2009 my question was: ‘why was that child not worth protecting?’ That is still my question today.
She insisted that “there needs to be resignations at this stage”.
If I fail someone I can be struck off, if I fail them as a social worker.
Unfortunately there is a huge gap when it comes to managers at the HSE. These are people with no clinical qualifications making decisions about some of the most vulnerable people in this state.
There is no register that these people can be struck off of. That’s why we need a commission of inquiry, or a court of law. It’s the only way to hold people accountable.
Earlier today, Minister of State Kathleen Lynch said she is recommending the government establish a statutory commission of investigation into the case of a foster home at the centre of abuse allegations.
Speaking to reporters today, Lynch said that, supported by Health Minister Leo Varadkar, she would be recommending a commission be set up.
“The work that is underway by Mr Conor Dignam SC will greatly inform the drafting of the terms of reference for a commission of investigation”, she said.
I strongly believe it is in the public interest that we establish the facts surrounding vulnerable people who were placed in this foster home.
She said it was clear that there had been failures in protecting the people involved and that it has been difficult to establish the facts with certainty.
“This has been acknowledged and I am confident that through the commission of investigation, we can resolve this.”
The Taoiseach and Tánaiste met to discuss it and the two ministers will attend cabinet tomorrow to talk through proposals for the commission.
RTÉ is also reporting that Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has ordered an investigation into allegations against State workers who placed vulnerable individuals with the foster family.
It is understood that more than 40 people passed through the foster home on health board placements between the early 1980s right up to 2009.
The Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee has asked that the actions of employees be investigated in relation to the case. The committee is due to discuss the issue tomorrow.
- With reporting by Cormac Fitzgerald and Cianan Brennan
Originally published 17.59