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Fees at centre for residents with autism to be probed over concerns about 'unknown criteria'

An inspection report found fees were still being paid into the account of a service provider that had its registration cancelled a year beforehand.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

A REVIEW HAS been launched into fees charged at a centre for residents on the autism spectrum after an inspection highlighted concerns about how these fees were being calculated.

Dunfirth Farm in Co Meath provides residential care and support for 33 adults on the autistim spectrum. The centre comprised of eight individual houses and six single unit apartments supporting both male and female residents.

This centre had previously been operated by the Irish Society for Autism (ISA) but according to the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa), it cancelled registration due to “high levels of non-compliance” and risk to residents” in May last year.

The HSE has a memorandum of understanding in operation with another autism service provider, Gheel Autism Services, to support the management of the centre and to commence putting systems in place to improve outcomes for residents.

A report published this week outlined findings from the second inspection to take place since the ISA’s registration was cancelled.

The June 2017 inspection found that under the contracts of care, each resident paid €390 per month for their service, however, “the criteria used to determine this level of cost was unknown”.

“It was also observed that this arrangement had not been discussed with the current person in charge or any member of the senior management team since the HSE took over the operations of the service in 2016 this arrangement remained in place,” the report said,

On further investigating this concern, inspectors found that, more than one year after the ISA’s registration was cancelled, €780 was still being transferred from the bank accounts of residents to the offices of the ISA every second month. The society then allocated a budget back to the centre from these funds.

The report said this arrangement “concerned the inspectors for a number of reasons”.

The ISA were at that stage no longer the provider for this service and no criteria or documentation was available to inform the inspectors how these charges had been calculated. Some residents lived in shared facilities while others lived in individual apartments, yet all residents were required to pay the same fee of €390 to the ISA every month.

Since this inspection the HSE was requested by Hiqa to clarify these charges. In response to that correspondence the provider informed Hiqa that a review will take place of all residents assessments and adjustments where required will be facilitated with immediate effect. Where appropriate, residents will be reimbursed once the assessments are completed.

According to the contracts of care residents were also subject to other ‘additional’ charges such as €50 a month for transport or contributing to staff wages where a staff member would support a resident to go on holidays.

However, the person in charge, the senior member of management from Gheel Autism Services and the provider nominee assured inspectors in writing that since they took over operations of the centre in 2016, no resident had paid or were required to pay these ‘additional’ fees.

The inspectors were also concerned about a recent issue pertaining to a resident found with bruising to their head. The cause of the injury was unknown, it was not investigated adequately, the resident was not brought for medical attention and no observations were recorded for the resident at that time.

In response to a query from TheJournal.ie, the HSE said it is “aware of the Hiqa report, and is working with the service provider, residents and their families in regard to recommendations made in the Hiqa report”.

Read: ‘Physically and psychologically abusive’ situation reported at Kilkenny care centre>

Read: Concerns raised about how residents would exit disability centre in event of fire>

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