Sunday 19 November 2017

Relatives call for board of service at the centre of abuse allegations to step down

Five allegations of sexual abuse recorded

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

FAMILIES have called for the board of a service for adults with intellectual disabilities at the centre of allegations of abuse to step aside.

Sunbeam House Services (SHS), which offers day and residential services to some 400 vulnerable adults in Wicklow, was subject to a quality review which was published last month.

The review, chaired by former Hiqa chief Gordon Jeyes, found faults with the centre’s complaints policy and their safeguarding procedures.

The service is facing abuse allegations in relation to sexual, physical, financial and psychological abuse as well as neglect allegations.

A delegation representing the families of service users is due to meet with officials from the HSE and the Department of Health on Thursday.

Relatives have expressed concern that the board is now going to oversee the implementation of changes recommended by the report and have called for a new board to be installed.

A family member, who wishes to remain anonymous, said families want “safer services for the most vulnerable adults in Wicklow”.

Health Minister Simon Harris has met with the families and described the allegations as “extraordinarily serious”.

Between January 2013 and September 2016, 284 complaints were made to the organisation of which 231 required formal investigation.

In the first three quarters of 2016, 33 complaints were notified to the HSE.

Between December 2015 and October 2016 there were:

  • 13 allegations of physical abuse
  • 5 allegations of sexual abuse
  • 1 allegation of financial abuse
  • 5 allegations of neglect

Following on from these complaints additional information was required in 52 per cent of instances, while 21 pc were found to have reasonable grounds for complaint.

In 27pc of cases the complaints were determined to have ‘no grounds’.

The Jeyes review found that the “service did not always investigate complaints in line with their agreed purpose”.

The Jeyes review recommended that the complaints process be reviewed to ensure maximum understanding of the process for everyone involved.

While a register of risk was in place there was no local policy outlining the list of so-called “serious reportable events” which need to be passed onto the HSE in writing, making it difficult to fully meet national requirements

The report found “no indication of any fundamental deficits”in the safeguarding work of the investigation but did find the need for training to deliver the HSE awareness programme in relation to safe-guarding.

SBH had “devoted time and energy to complaints handling” but there was insufficient evidence of learning from complaints or an analysis of trends, the report notes.

Processing of complaints was also protracted in some cases leading to a deterioration of confidence in the case of some families the report notes.

The Jeyes review noted that the team “has been unable to determine how many [complaints] were upheld and how the organisation learned from the process”.

In a statement SHS said the board welcomed the review and is committed to “continuing the process of improvement within SHS to bring about the necessary changes in complaint handling procedures”.

“Sunbeam House Services carries out complete and proper reviews and investigations in respect of all safeguarding and protection issues that are raised with them.

“This includes reporting matters to HIQA, the HSE and to the Garda Siochana. All allegations of abuse receive the highest amount of attention from SHS and the relevant authorities.

“There is a zero tolerance in Sunbeam House Services in respect of abuse.

“In all cases these matters are independently reviewed and dealt with in full compliance with legislative requirements and national policy.

“In the last seven years there has been no confirmed case of sexual abuse by a staff member within Sunbeam House Services,” the statement continues.

The HSE said it is considering the response received from the service and will implement “robust” measures to ensure that the recommendations are implemented.

Online Editors

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