duty of care

Grace case: 47 children went through foster home where there were abuse concerns

Two previously unpublished reports about the case have been made public.

TWO PREVIOUSLY UNPUBLISHED reports into the shocking ‘Grace’ case have shown that 47 children were placed in a Waterford foster home at which there were concerns about abuse.

The reports have details of the potential abuse the intellectually disabled girl known as ‘Grace’ suffered during the 20 years at the foster home.

The Conal Devine Report into the case from 2015 found that an absence of supervision and adherence of protocols meant that Grace was allowed to remain there.

The Devine report also identified at least four opportunities where action could have been taken and Grace could have been removed from the home.

A 2012 inquiry carried out on protected disclosures that were made about the case identified that there had been evidence of bruising on her body.

Despite Grace remaining there for 20 years, the report found no evidence to suggest the foster family were ever approved to be full-time foster carers.

There was also no evidence that they were given approval for more than two children at any one time.

In 1985 the family provided placement to at least 14 children for an average of one week per child, in 1986 it was 19 children and in 1987 it was at least 20 children.

The children were placed there by the former South Eastern Health Board or from schools or services provided for children with intellectual disability.

One person was placed with the foster family in the 1980s and said later that they were locked in a cupboard in the home.

The HSE has apologised for the failings that led to this point.

“The HSE wishes again to offer an unreserved and heartfelt apology to all those who experienced serious failings in the care provided and for the significant failures of the former South Eastern Health Board and the HSE to make the care situation safe,” said Dr Cathal Morgan of HSE Disability Services.

We welcome the establishment of the Commission of Investigation that will have greater powers of compellability in order to answer these questions. Substantial progress has been made to improve the quality of social care services provided to people with disabilities and to ensure that vulnerable adults are safeguarded.

Speaking about the findings of the reports on RTÉ’s Sean O’Rourke today, Fergus Finlay or Barnardos said it was “one of the most shaming things that I’ve come across for a long time”.

“Clearly what happened here was a duty of care to a citizen who needed care was simply abandoned and replaced by bureaucratic inertia or worse,” he said.

In the various reports that were done and investigated she was given a case number and in the end lost or appeared to lose her identity as a citizen.

Finlay said that she is now “doing well” but for too long was treated as “an inconvenience”.

“Grace is now living in a small residential centre and she is doing well and doing as well as she is entitled to do. Through all of that time it appears she was treated as a bit of an inconvenience by the system, somebody without a voice to whom a label has been attached.”

- The two reports are available to read on the HSE’s website

Read: HSE confirm that people were left in a foster home after allegations of sexual abuse >

Read: TD claims HSE manager tried to destroy career of whistleblower in Grace abuse case >

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