Monday 20 January 2020

'A complete failure' - Placement of boy (15) with autism in private apartment heavily criticised by advocacy group

Boy (15) has been placed in private rented accommodation for almost six months
Boy (15) has been placed in private rented accommodation for almost six months

Sean Nolan

An advocacy group for people with intellectual disability in Ireland has heavily criticised a situation in which a 15-year-old boy with autism has been placed in a private rented apartment for three months, calling it "a complete failure".

Last week, reported on the case in which the mother of the boy pleaded for help for her son, who has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, after the HSE placed him in a private apartment with two support workers.

The boy was placed there in mid January and his mother says his condition is deteriorating the longer he spends in the apartment.

In recent days the teenager has again expressed suicidal thoughts to his mother and he has also spoken of thinking about running away.

Speaking to this week, Inclusion Ireland's Sarah Lennon called the situation the family found themselves in "a complete failure" by the Irish health services.

"This situation is very rare and is illustrative of the lack of joined-up thinking when it comes to helping those with intellectual disabilities in Ireland.

"It is simply not adequate and a complete failure by the State," she added.

The teenager become violent in the family home in 2017 and at one point was moved into an adult psychiatric ward for over six weeks.

Following another violent episode at home before Christmas, the teenager was again admitted to an adult ward before, in mid-January, the teenager was placed in an apartment, in the company of support workers, rented by the HSE.

"He wants the help but he hasn't been in school in a year and the longer he is out of school and therapy, the worse his behaviours get," his mother told last week.

"He's not getting any help," she added.

The woman said she has been told that it may be a further six to eight months until a permanent place for her son can be found, with a placement in the UK mentioned as a possibility.

Inclusion Ireland said that placements in the UK were common, but that would separate the boy from his family and that better responsibility for cases like this are needed in Ireland.

"There needs to be some oversight. Cases like this have so many strands and they can fall between the gaps in the care services currently available," Ms Lennon said.

In response to a number of queries the HSE told Independent last week: "The matter relates to a 15-year old boy with a diagnosis of autism who is being supported in a private rented accommodation with 24-hour supports pending availability of suitable residential service.

"HSE staff are in contact with the family in order to support them on an on-going basis, whilst an appropriate long-term residential placement is being sourced for the individual.

"The HSE encourages any individuals and/or their families, who may have an issue with the service they are receiving, to make contact with the services concerned and the matter will be discussed directly with them."

A spokeperson for Tusla told last week that it was a matter that was being dealt with by the HSE and they had no comment to make.

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