THE WOMAN WHO went public on the health service’s plans to hold mental health patients in a locked facility over Christmas has been let go from the Irish Advocacy Network after completing a six-month training programme.
The group’s CEO Colette Nolan has defended the move, citing funding shortages and cuts to its budget.
The IAN receives the majority of its funding from the Health Service Executive, a figure that was cut by 7.1 per cent last year.
“We have streamlined a lot of different things throughout the organisation to keep our staff this year but as far as new jobs are concerned, we will be looking at how to keep the staff we already have,” Nolan told TheJournal.ie.
The chief executive was speaking after Louise Bayliss was told there would be no extension to a trainee contract that she and another colleague were signed onto in March.
“We wanted to build up capacity so that we would have people trained up and willing to be called on to help us out,” she explained. “It meant that they would be there if we could secure funding, which we couldn’t.”
All those who completed the training will still be put forward for accreditation.
Late last year, Bayliss went public over plans to transfer mental health patients to St Brendan’s Hospital in Grangegorman and keep them in a locked unit over the Christmas period.
In January, she was informed that her six-month advocacy contract was being terminated after three months. The contract’s withdrawal sparked public outcry, and she was subsequently reinstated.
However, she told TheJournal.ie that in March, she and four colleagues were told that they were being put on training contracts. Of the three who finished the course, one already had a permanent contact and has been retained by IAN.
“We were trained for nothing,” she said. “They brought us in today for five minutes each and said, ‘Good luck, I’m sure our paths will cross one day.’”
“The ironic thing about it all is that four years ago, I was suffering from post-natal depression and going through the break-up of my marriage and I decided to go into the mental health sector. So I went back to college and I thought that by the time my daughter is ready to go to school, I’ll be ready to start a job. For four years that’s what has kept me going.
“Could they have chosen a worse day to tell me there’s no job? My daughter starts school tomorrow.”
“So I’m back to square one, looking for another job. I thought that if I played the game, then it would work out. I never thought they’d train us for six months without any job at the end of it.”
Bayliss says she still has no regrets about going public on the patients transfers before Christmas.
“I was only in the bank a few weeks ago and I met one of the patients who was transferred. I didn’t think she would recognise me, but she came up to me and she said, ‘Thanks for doing that.’”
“It has been very hard for me to go in the morning and face everyone,” she said of going back to work after the whistleblowing. “But I did it with a smile on my face. I genuinely did want to work with patients and help people, and I wanted to show that I wasn’t just a troublemaker, that I wanted to help.”
She said that she was “shocked” to see the group being told there were no jobs at the end of the training “because they had to pay for us to be trained, pay for mobile phones, pay for transport, sometimes accommodation, for somebody to train us”.
“And all for nothing.”
Changes in training
Nolan and the IAN have worked on changing their training methods after last year’s incident after taking full responsibility for what happened. The new model will include group training before any shadowing of experienced advocates takes place.
“We have the best staff in the world,” said Nolan. “We are instrumental in helping so many people in their journey to recovery. They do an incredible job and maybe it is time to get that out there, rather than the negative stuff.”
-With additional reporting by Sinéad O’Carroll