HIQA sets out new guidelines to protect vulnerable from neglect
VULNERABLE people will be protected from neglect and abuse under new standards launched by the health watchdog, it was claimed today.
The residential homes of 9,500 children and adults with disabilities will be inspected by officials from the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) for the first time later this year.
The new national standards outline what the Health Service Executive, private organisations and charities must do to ensure safe and effective care is being given to people living in, or using, residential and respite services, Hiqa said.
Marie Kehoe O'Sullivan, director of safety and quality, said the measures will protect residents from neglect and abuse.
She told those who care for the disabled that the standards were aimed at setting expectations for adults, children and their families nationwide.
"We are here to help you, we are here to support," she said at the launch in the Mansion House in Dublin.
"It's not a stick to hit you with."
An estimated 9,500 people with disabilities live in some 1,200 residential services across the country.
There will be a total of 60 new standards - 30 for children with disabilities and 30 for adults with disabilities - under eight themes including individualised supports and care, safe services, and health and development.
Phelim Quinn, Hiqa's director of regulation, said the publication of the standards was a landmark moment for disability services in Ireland.
"Children and adults using residential services have the right to be safe, to receive good care and support and to have access to the services they need to enable them to live a fulfilling life," he added.
All services providing residential services for people with disabilities in Ireland will have to be registered with Hiqa, whose inspectors will start visiting homes in September.
Funding has been approved for at least 16 new inspectors, and a similar number of support staff, which will be taken from the health budget.
Providers will also be charged to register, like nursing homes, and the first set of inspections will take three years to complete.
Kathleen Lynch, minister of state for disability, revealed she had previously warned Taoiseach Enda Kenny there would be a crisis if there were not standards for people with with physical and mental disabilities in care.
"When people would say to me what keeps you awake at night, it was this," she said.
"It was the fact that we have people in our care who are extremely vulnerable and that we didn't have any oversight for it."
Ms Lynch said the new measures will give the families of loved ones in an institution a great deal of comfort.
"The majority of service providers so an excellent job, it's just that we have to know they are doing an excellent job," she added.
"It will protect good practice and if there's bad practice we have to stop that."
The national standards focus on the outcomes for the adults and children receiving services and state that residents should enjoy a good quality of life and live in a place that feels like their home.
Hiqa, which was established six years ago this week, will have the power to go to the courts to close facilities which consistency fail standards, like it has with nursing homes around the country.
Pat McGrath, who today retires as chairman of its board, said the new regulations were a hugely important milestone for the authority.
"Standards play a hugely valuable part in informing what people receiving services can expect and what it required of those providing the services," he added.
"This is never more so than when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable people in society.
"These standards epitomise the overall approach of the authority, our absolute commitment to protecting people and our steadfastness in ensuring they are implemented."