Friday 20 September 2019

Áras Attracta residents had poor quality of life - says damning report

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Residents of a home for people with a disability which was at the centre of a television exposé had a poor quality of life and suffered from isolation and institutional conditioning, a damning report revealed today.

The findings of an independent report into Aras Attracta, a set of HSE-run bungalows in a congregated setting for people with an intellectual disability in Mayo, said they were given little to do every day and were dependent on staff.

It was set up following public outrage at a Prime Time documentary showing residents poorly treated by staff.

It is now being slowly wound down and residents are moving to community homes.

Chair of the Review Group, Dr Kevin McCoy said, “Critically, in our review, we found the model of care at Áras Attracta to be wrong.

"The model did not respect the residents as individuals. They have suffered isolation and institutional conditioning.

"There was an assumption that the residents could not contribute and do things for themselves:  they have been unable to reach their potential.

"The residents have had a poor quality of life, and their voices have not been heard.

“To move on from this report, services for people with intellectual disability must be person-focused and needs-based.

"It is important to not only maintain the health of people with intellectual disability, but to include them in social life and respect them as individuals.

"Services should be provided in the community, rather than congregated settings.

He said the delivery of key infrastructural changes that are recommended by this review. However, at a national level, while policy favours support for people with intellectual disabilities in the community, the pace of change is still too slow.

Welcoming the findings of the Review, Mr Pat Healy, HSE National Director, Social Care said, “I wish again to apologise unreservedly to the residents of Áras Attracta and their families for the manner in which they were treated.

"I want to thank Dr McCoy and the members of his Review Group for their work in producing this set of reports. Their recommendations support our vision for Áras Attracta, and for other residential disability services nationally, which is to move to community living, supporting people with disabilities to live lives of their choosing, to decide where they live, who they live with and how they spend their time.”

Mr Tony Canavan, Chief Officer, HSE Community Healthcare Organisation 2 (Galway, Mayo & Roscommon), also thanked Dr. McCoy and his team for a very comprehensive review of services at Áras Attracta. He noted, “Their report captures the voice of the residents at Áras Attracta and this is particularly valuable in assisting us in our redesign of the services at the centre.”

At today’s launch, the HSE published its response to the recommendations of the McCoy Review Group and outlined the actions it has taken to improve services at Áras Attracta.

The HSE has also outlined the programme of improvements underway in safeguarding and disability services nationally by the HSE through the Community Healthcare Organisations (CHOs), in parallel with Dr McCoy’s Review.

The HSE’s response to the Review Group Report is grouped under three main headings:

1. Transition to community living

At Áras Attracta the HSE has been moving steadily towards a community based model of support for the residents.

This is guided by the national report ‘Time to Move on from Congregated Settings’ whose core recommendation is that people living in congregated settings should be supported to live in the community with appropriate supports.

A roadmap for Áras Attracta, published today, outlines how the HSE will enable residents to make this transition to community living.

This roadmap will facilitate further consultation and discussion with service users, residents, their families and advocates, staff and other key stakeholders about how the HSE’s vision for Áras Attracta will be implemented.

The transition to community living will happen on a phased basis. This is informed by the results of the residents’ individual assessments. It is proposed this will happen in three phases:

Phase I – commencing in 2016: 27 residents can start the transition to community living with additional supports as appropriate.

Phase II – commencing in 2017: a further 26 residents can start to transition in accordance with their individual needs assessments. The residents will require significant additional support and time to progress to community living.

Phase III – commencing in 2018: this phase will involve a comprehensive programme of communication and engagement with 37 residents and their families about choices and options for their future.

Phase III residents have significant complex needs, ageing or medical conditions and will require additional transitional planning and time to ensure that the most appropriate supports and service are provided for them in accordance with their individual needs assessments. Planning is underway for this third phase.

While it is important to set targets in order to maintain focus on the overall objective, ultimately these timelines will be heavily influenced by the readiness of residents to make the move and consultation and engagement with their families and/or advocates.

2. Voice of the Residents

With the support of Inclusion Ireland, a Family Forum has been established in Áras Attracta and in a number of other residential settings to ensure the voice of service users, their families and advocates are included in all that they do. CEO of Inclusion Ireland Mr Paddy Connolly said, “Inclusion Ireland will help build the capacity of staff and residents to ensure the voices of the residents are heard. We will also support families of residents to engage with management and staff regarding the future provision of services at Áras Attracta.”

3. Governance, Leadership & Management

An important recommendation emerging from the review group was the change in management and governance structures at Áras Attracta.

In 2015, a new Director of Services was appointed to manage day to day operations and oversee the ongoing change programme.  Áras Attracta was reorganised into three designated centres, each with a Centre Manager, with services tailored specifically for residents’ needs.

A dedicated project manager, working with two full time transition co-ordinators, has been appointed to lead the change management team and the transition to community.

This team has the necessary skills to drive forward the change programme at the required pace and to ensure the voices of all concerned are heard.

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