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Sunday 10 December 2023 Dublin: 11°C

Woman with intellectual disabilties left in foster home for two years after claims of sexual abuse

Yesterday, Cabinet was informed about new disability protocols which will cost €7 million per year.

Updated 4.30pm

A WOMAN WAS left in the care of a foster family for two years after allegations of sexual abuse were made against the foster father.

The woman known as ‘Mary’, who has intellectual disabilities, was left with the foster family despite allegations made in 2014.

Despite a decision being taken in September 2014 to remove Mary from the home, the order was not executed until February 2016.

A number of other children who were also residing in the home were removed and the foster carers were taken off the foster care panel.

However, because Mary was aged 18 and deemed to be an adult she was no longer under statutory care or under the remit of Tusla.

Foster care 

While Tusla had the power to remove the children from the home, they did not have the power to take Mary out of foster care, resulting in a two-year period where she remained with the family.

It wasn’t until 2016 that the HSE removed Mary from the home and placed her in residential care.

A review into the case of Mary, which is due to be published shortly, was commissioned by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

When children in State care turn 18 

The review, which was brought to Cabinet yesterday by Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone and Health Minister Simon Harris, is understood to have identified a general lack of clarity regarding what agency is responsible for a person in statutory care once they turn 18 years of age.

The report found that Tusla was unclear about what action it was legally allowed to take. The case was not escalated to senior management, contributing to Mary’s prolonged stay within the foster home.

The review also found that reliable safeguarding measures were not in place to protect Mary despite Tusla responding to the allegations made in respect of removing the children from the home.

Tusla is further criticised for not carrying out safeguarding measures within the appropriate time frames.

Mary’s case bears similarities to that of ‘Grace’.

The Grace case concerns a young woman with intellectual disabilities who was in care. Allegations arose that she had suffered years of abuse, but despite the allegations she remained at the home for 20 years.

Following the publication of two reports into the alleged abuse, the Dáil voted in favour of establishing a Commission of Investigation into the case of Grace, and 47 others who lived in the foster home in the south-east of the country.

Cracks in the system 

The review into Mary’s case highlighted a lack of coordination between the HSE and Tusla.

The report found a lack of understanding among all agencies in relation to what role they played in the management of Mary’s care.

With another case coming to light, Zappone and Health Minister Simon Harris brought a memo to Cabinet yesterday relating to new detailed disability protocols reforms for Tusla and the HSE.

The new protocols deal with how children in care access HSE disability services when they reach 18 years of age. The new rules give clarity as to what agency is responsible for providing the appropriate supports and care.

Significantly, the new rules ensure that people will still receive State services when they reach 18.

All young people in state care moving to adult services will transfer from Tusla to the HSE services automatically upon turning 18.

The provision of extra supports will come at a cost of €7 million per year to the HSE.

Speaking today about the new protocols, Minister Zappone said the review of Mary’s case demonstrates the potential risk posed to young people who are transitioning from state care into adult disability services.

The new protocols are “operational immediately”, said the minister, adding:

It is long overdue but nevertheless very welcome.

Minister of State for Disabilities, Finian McGrath said:

“I am very aware of the need for a greater emphasis being placed on the protection of the more vulnerable members of our society such as those with an intellectual disability who may not have the ability to verbalise their immediate concerns, and views this protocol as an extremely progressive step in that regard”.

Jim Gibson, Chief Operations Officer, Tusla said the new rules will promote the best interests of children, vulnerable adults and their families.

The protocol clarifies and sets out the respective roles, duties and legal requirements of the HSE and Tusla in relation to children and vulnerable adults with a disability or mental health issue.

Read: Child offenders will no longer be detained in adult prisons>

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