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'My son lost his smile': Families say South Kerry CAMHS compensation scheme must be non-adversarial

“There’s nothing really that can compensate for the last four years,” one father said.

File photo of a therapy session
File photo of a therapy session
Image: Shutterstock/llike

Updated Apr 20th 2022, 9:10 AM

A SOLICITOR REPRESENTING families affected by the failings in the HSE-run South Kerry Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) has welcomed the establishment of a compensation scheme, which was approved by the Government last week.

Keith Rolls said the development is “very positive” but called for the process to be non-adversarial.

Mental Health Minister Mary Butler yesterday confirmed that the scheme had been approved by the Government following a meeting on 13 April. The HSE has written to the families to inform them of the details of the scheme.

A report into the care of more than 1,300 children who attended South Kerry CAMHS, conducted by a team led by Dr Seán Maskey, was published in January.

It found that 46 children suffered “significant harm” while attending the service, and a review into 240 young people showed the service did not meet the standards which it should have.

People identified through the Maskey Report as having suffered some level of harm will be eligible to apply to the scheme, which will be operated by the State Claims Agency on behalf of the HSE.

Speaking on Morning Ireland today, solicitor Keith Rolls welcomed the setting up of the scheme and said supplementary reports “may be necessary to ensure that we can quantify the damage suffered”.

“This isn’t dealing with a broken arm that a young child has suffered training for his local football team.

This is a child or children who have unfortunately been sedated for three or four years, who spent this time in their bedroom, who haven’t been able to attend school, who lost all their friends, who don’t participate in the community.

Rolls said it’s “very positive that the HSE are putting a team in place and we look forward to receiving the details of all the consultants who are making themselves available”.

However, he added: “I know the families are concerned about how detailed and thorough these reports can be due to the value of missing medical records we’ve been made aware of.”

Rolls stated that if his clients are “not satisfied” with the outcome of this team’s work, he and his colleagues “have been in discussions with specialists in the UK who are prepared to prepare these reports on behalf of our clients”.

‘He became suicidal’ 

Maurice O’Connell’s son Jason was treated by South Kerry CAMHS for ADHD but was over-medicated and became suicidal.

O’Connell told Morning Ireland: “The first thing that I noticed was that he lost his smile, his happy-go-lucky self. He was letting roars and screeches randomly.

“He was having dark thoughts, he couldn’t sleep … Then he was getting suicidal tendencies, so we were on suicide watch.”

O’Connell said this new process cannot be adversarial.

“There’s nothing really that can compensate for the last four years. I’ve read a bit about the redress here and I’m more frightened of it than anything else.

I’m frightened of it because of I’ve already myself gone through redress with the industrial schools. And when they say it’s not, it actually turns into adversarial behind closed doors. And a lot of the parents as well as myself wouldn’t have the mental capacity to follow up with another hit.

Jason has since come off the medication but now suffers from anxiety and cannot attend school.

‘Shocking and disturbing’

The compensation scheme is designed to provide full compensation in line with a court ruling, but without the stress of court proceedings, Butler said.

The children and families involved can apply to the scheme via the HSE through their appointed solicitor. Eligible applicants will receive €5,000 to cover any initial expenses involved in taking part in the compensation process.

Announcing the scheme yesterday, Butler said the Maskey Report was “a shocking and disturbing revelation”.

“Children, young people and their families have been affected by the serious failures in the care delivered, and the publication of the report was also very stressful for them. I know this first hand, having met some of the families concerned,” she said.

“The HSE accepted all the findings in the report, apologised fully and is wholly committed to the implementation of all 35 of its recommendations as well as the additional actions I requested, such as the audit of prescribing practices.
It is important that we deliver on these recommendations to restore confidence and trust in our vital child and adolescent mental health services.

Speaking on Morning Ireland today, Butler said no minimum payment will be set and the level of compensation will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

“The scheme will run to many, many millions of euros and the Government will not be found wanting to ensure those affected will get what they deserve in compensation for the harm caused to them.

“However, I’m not going to preempt what any individual will receive, each case is individual. Each child is unique and they will be accessed in their own right.”

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She added: “One of the basic principles of the scheme is that the compensation award will be in line with what a court would award.”

A panel of independent psychiatrists will be put in place to compile reports on the young people affected, Butler said.

However, she added that “an applicant doesn’t have to get a report from an expert on that particular panel”.

“They can get their own and that was the reason why €5,000 was made available to support families who may not have the means or the appetite to take on a legal process to seek compensation.”

Butler reiterated that the process will “absolutely not” be adversarial. She said if there is a disagreement between a family and the State Claims Agency, a senior counsel will act as a mediator.

“Their solicitors will attend [a meditation hearing] and the applicants and the legal teams, and the mediators will attend and hopefully a settlement will be agreed.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for HSE Cork Kerry Community Healthcare yesterday said the scheme “will give some assistance to the families and young people affected who did not receive the standard of care they deserved.” 

“Separately, we continue to engage directly with the young people affected and their families. A Clinical Support Liaison Team is in place and are available to support individuals and families. We are committed to providing ongoing support to all those affected by the events outlined in the Maskey Report,” the spokesperson said.

A separate process is underway to make sure all 35 recommendations of the report are implemented.

“The HSE would like to take this opportunity once again to apologise sincerely to the young people affected and their families for deficits in care they have received,” the spokesperson added.

Any affected families can contact the HSE’s South Kerry CAMHS Lookback Review information line on 1800 742 800.

With reporting from Jane Moore and the Press Association

Need help? Support is available:

  • Aware – 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Samaritans – 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.ie
  • Pieta House – 1800 247 247 or email mary@pieta.ie (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland – 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 18)
  • Childline – 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)
  • ALONE - 0818 222 024  (for older people)

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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