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'Some matters still not investigated': Report finds HSE were slow to examine foster home abuse claims

The HSE issued a statement today apologising to Grace and her family and welcomed the report.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: Shutterstock/Tammada

A REPORT INTO claims of sexual abuse at a foster home in the south-east has revealed that the HSE failed to investigate concerns fully.

Last year RTÉ‘s This Week revealed the story of Grace – a young woman with profound intellectual disabilities who was left in a foster home in the Waterford area for almost 20 years despite a succession of sexual abuse allegations.

In 1995 on the back of these claims, the South Eastern Health Board decided not to place any further people in the home.

However, a decision to remove Grace was overturned in 1996. As a result she stayed in the home until a whistleblower’s complaint in 2009.

The scandal resulted in the HSE Director General Tony O’Brien apologising to the 47 families – including Grace’s – who were in the care of the home.

The report

The report, entitled ‘Review of Certain Matters Relating to a Disability in the South East’, details the measures taken by members of the foster care home, and then the following actions by the HSE. The identities of those involved have been protected.

In his assessment of the HSE’s reactions to the sexual abuse allegations, Conor Dignam concluded that the HSE had failed to investigate properly, and there were still aspects that had not been examined fully:

“These are all allegations of the most serious nature and it seems to me that they should have been required to have been inquired into fully and expeditiously in the interests of Grace, all of those other service users, the relationship between the HSE and the service provider and the persons against whom allegations were implicitly or expressly made.

Some of these matters have still not been inquired into.

“Some, such as the task of identifying any other persons who may have been placed with the former foster family, have now been looked into by Resilience Ireland, but the failure by the HSE to ensure that there could be no doubt but that this was part of the Devine Inquiry means that there was a delay of almost four years in doing so.”

Upon the publishing of the report, the HSE issued a statement saying they wished “again to apologise to Grace and her family for the failings identified and for the poor care received by those placed with the foster family”.

Recommendations

The report has set out eight recommendations relating specifically to the HSE, which have now been referred to the HSE for a response within two weeks on how they are being or will be addressed.

Among these, the report puts a clear emphasis on the need for independent reviews:

Save in exceptional circumstances, reviews or inquiries in relation to acts or omissions of the HSE in a particular area or region, should not be conducted by a team involving any individual who has had a senior management role in the relevant HSE area or region.

The full 300-page report can be read here.

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