Inspections to protect the disabled finally get go-ahead
LONG-delayed inspections that aim to protect the safety of 10,000 people with a disability living in residential care are to begin next year.
Launching draft national standards for residential centres caring for adults and children with disabilities, Niall Byrne, deputy director of the social services inspectorate, said the sector is currently under-regulated with varying standards.
There are 1,700 centres, but Ireland is behind most other European countries, which have checks and balances in place to reduce the chances of residents coming to harm and ensuring they have a good quality of care.
The draft standards, which will form some of the benchmark for inspections, focus on giving residents more individual care and are open to public submission until November 21.
Final standards are to be drawn up and approved by the Health Minister, paving the way for more state supervision.
The social services inspectorate, which is part of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), said it expected that a ministerial order will be made next year to allow the inspections to begin.
HIQA chief executive Tracey Cooper said there are two to three times more people living in centres for people with a disability compared to nursing homes, which are regulated.
She said the disability sector is largely funded by the HSE, but it is outsourced to different agencies.
A spokeswoman for Inclusion Ireland, which represents people with a disability, said: "We welcome the publication of the draft standards, and that time has been given over to public consultation.
"Inclusion Ireland has been campaigning for nearly 20 years for independent inspection of disability services, and we hope inspections will finally start as early as possible next year. We encourage people with disabilities and their families to feed into the process and get their voice heard."