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Volunteer accused of abuse was allowed to keep working at disability service for years

Hiqa found that management at Camphill in Kilkenny repeatedly failed to address safeguarding of residents.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Rolling News

A VOLUNTEER ACCUSED of sexual abuse by a colleague at a centre for people with intellectual disabilities was allowed to stay working and living with residents for years after the accusations first came to light, health watchdog Hiqa has confirmed today.

An allegation of sexual assault was made against a voluntary worker by a worker at the Camphill centre at Ballytobin, Kilkenny in 2014, according to Hiqa.

According to Hiqa: “The provider’s investigation found that these allegations were upheld.”

The Camphill Communities of Ireland provides services for over 200 people with intellectual and other disabilities in 17 centres around Ireland, and has been in operation since 1972.

The centre in Ballytobin was founded in 1979, and some residents have been cared for at the Co Kilkenny facility for over thirty years. 19 residents were living at the centre as of last month.

According to an inspection report by Hiqa published today, the allegation of sexual assault wasn’t reported by Camphill to the Gardaí at the time it was initially made in 2014, and it wasn’t reported to Hiqa as required by the regulations.

The person the assault claims were made against continued to live and work in the centre with vulnerable adults and children until 9 May, when the health watchdog’s inspection of the site took place.

In relation to another unconnected allegation, Camphill informed inspectors last month that they had received a recommendation from an external agency that “the staff referred to in the allegations should be removed from the centre without prejudice but as a precautionary measure to ensure the safety of residents” pending the outcome of an investigation.

Hiqa saw records of this recommendation, according to the inspection report published today. However, staff refused to cooperate with the request, and Camphill took no further actions “until required to do so by inspectors”.

A number of inspections were made by Hiqa over the last year. It was found that there had been repeated failures by management at the centre to effectively address safeguarding of residents.

On 9 May, the inspectors found that there was enough concern to require some voluntary co-workers to be removed immediately from the centre and banned from having access to residents “until a full and proper investigation into all issues of concern had been concluded”.

The Hiqa inspectors said that Camphill was unable to provide “sufficient and clear evidence” as to whether allegations had been reported to the relevant authorities.

They also found that some of the staff involved in these allegations continued to work with residents in the centre.

According to the report:

Inspectors found that the response of the provider was inadequate and did not ensure the safety of residents either at the time of the alleged incidents or when they were recently informed of them again as part of the current review.

Camphill Communities of Ireland released a statement in May confirming that it was transferring the running of the Kilkenny community to the HSE.

Management

The report outlined that inspectors were concerned that Camphill did not have adequate management and oversight arrangements in the centre.

Inspectors found that the provider had not responded appropriately to allegations of serious abuse within the centre.
When they did respond, it was not a sufficient response that prioritised the safety of residents.

Inspectors also found that Camphill had not put proper arrangements in place to ensure that staff who wished to raise concerns about the safety of care could do so.

Following the May inspection, the newly appointed chairperson of the board of directors spoke with Hiqa inspectors and “demonstrated a clear understanding of the actions that needed to be taken to keep residents safe”. Inspectors said she set out the measures that had now been implemented.

The chairperson requested a two week delay in any decision about the Hiqa registration status of the centre. The HSE also informed inspectors of actions they were taking to support Camphill to ensure residents were being kept safe and “immediate risks” were being managed.

However, “given the seriousness” of the incidents and the repeated failures of Camphill to address the safeguard of residents, Hiqa issued a final notice of decision to cancel the registration of Camphill Community Ballytobin on 22 May 2017.

A cancellation of registration means that the HSE are obliged to take over the centre. The changeover has now been completed and the residents at the Ballytobin centre are still living there, under the care of the HSE.

The Camphill Family & Friends group said in a statement that the matters highlighted in today’s report were “truly shocking”, adding:

… it seems that the actions of some have served to undermine the extraordinary good that Camphill communities do all over Ireland.

Read: ‘Huge concerns’ over future of disability service in Kilkenny >

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