Monday 19 March 2018

HSE criticised over abuse probe into care of woman in foster home

Finian McGrath Picture: Frank McGrath
Finian McGrath Picture: Frank McGrath
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A senior barrister has criticised the HSE for limiting the scope of an independent inquiry it commissioned into the care of an intellectually disabled woman in a foster home.

A report by Conor Dignam SC said the approach adopted by the HSE "was inadequate in all the circumstances".

An inquiry it commissioned failed to look into allegations of a cover-up within the HSE as this was excluded from the terms of reference.

It also failed to identify other children who had lived there with Grace, necessitating a further independent probe.

This resulted in a delay of four years in determining who else may have been affected.

Mr Dignam's findings were published last night by Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath and will form the foundation for a commission of investigation into the alleged abuse of children in the home and the response of the health services to those allegations.

The barrister said the narrow scope of the initial inquiry commissioned by the HSE from consultancy firm Conal Devine and Associates was "unfortunate".

"It meant that serious issues were not investigated as soon and as quickly as possible and that other serious issues have not yet been investigated," he said.

"It seems to me that the approach adopted to the inquiry was inadequate because the terms of reference which the inquiry team was given by the HSE did not clearly and expressly ensure that there would be an examination of those (other) matters."

However, Mr Dignam said there was no evidence in documentation he was provided by the HSE to suggest that focusing on Grace's case was a deliberate action to avoid investigation of other issues.

His report also raised questions over the manner in which Mr Devine's firm was appointed without an open tender.

While he was satisfied the HSE engaged a suitably qualified and expert person who provided value for money, based on the documentation he had seen, the process did not ensure compliance with procurement rules or ensure that the best price was obtained.

Mr Dignam also said there was a lack of evidence of compliance by the HSE with procurement rules in relation to the second inquiry, conducted by consultancy firm Resilience Ireland. The second probe sought to trace other former residents of the home.

The barrister examined concerns that a member of the Resilience team had previously worked in the health boards and the HSE in the south.

But he found this did not mean he should have been disqualified from participating as he had no operational responsibility for the care services at the centre of the inquiry and no involvement in Grace's or related cases.

Neither the Devine nor Resilience Ireland reports have been published due to ongoing garda investigations.

Mr Dignam made several detailed recommendations about what should be investigated by the commission of investigation, covering Grace's care, decisions made by health service officials, the monitoring of her foster placement, and the care and decisions made in relation to other residents.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News