Woman's family not told by HSE of abuse concerns
The family of an intellectually disabled woman was not told by the HSE that allegations of sexual abuse had been made about the respite home she was attending.
The woman, now aged 35 and known by the pseudonym 'Ann', continued to attend the former foster home until October 2013 - four years after the HSE belatedly removed another woman, known as 'Grace', amid fears she was the victim of horrific sexual abuse.
Unlike Grace, Ann was not placed at the home by health authorities.
Instead she was placed there as part of a private arrangement made by her family.
HSE director general Tony O'Brien told the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that a number of interventions were made with Ann's family by the HSE in an effort to get them to end the placement.
However, he conceded that while the family was told in general terms of concerns about care in the home, it was not told of sexual abuse allegations.
Mr O'Brien said it was his "understanding" that gardaí provided information about the substance of the allegations. However, if the family was informed by gardaí, it still opted to continue with the placement.
Committee member Joe Costello observed that the HSE didn't tell the family of the abuse concerns and "the end result was that this person was open to abuse".
PAC vice-chairman John Deasy said it was "morally disgraceful" the family was not informed of the sex abuse allegations by the HSE.
The committee was told the HSE did not have the legal power to end the private placement.
Mr O'Brien said Ann's contact with the foster family commenced in 1992 when she was 12 and went to stay there on a part-time basis.
"All of the arrangements were conducted privately by her own family," said Mr O'Brien.
"During June 2011, having been contacted by the gardaí, the HSE team at local level engaged with the family again to confirm that there was a garda investigation, to advise them of concerns and to invite them to make direct contact with gardaí if they wished."
Mr O'Brien said that in October 2011, when Ann was aged 31, she was offered a seven-day placement elsewhere, but her family opted to continue using the former foster home. "Throughout the period from 2011 through to 2013 there were various engagements with Ann's family essentially to persuade them to cease contact with the former foster family," said Mr O'Brien.
He said that in October 2013, the HSE formally demanded the foster family cease all care activity.
Later that month, Ann's family was formally written to, requesting that they would cease the placement, and it was only shortly after that point that it was ended.