Wednesday 19 December 2018

Safeguarding failings cited in Sunbeam review

Deborah Coleman

The Sunbeam House Services Family Advocacy Group is seeking a meeting with Minister for Health Simon Harris and the HSE following the findings of a review of safeguarding referrals which was commissioned after last year's assurance review of the management of complaints.

The review, which was finalised in January, was only circulated to families this week and they have questioned the 10-week delay.

The group also expressed concern that families were not interviewed as part of this review.

The review, compiled by Gordon Jeyes, analysed the handling of 37 referrals of complaint by the service to the HSE Safeguarding and Protection Team - 13 pertaining to physical abuse, one to physical/sexual abuse, two to physical/psychological abuse, five to sexual abuse, six to psychological abuse, one to financial abuse and nine to neglect.

The report noted that the sexual abuse incidents took place in the community between peers but outlined that it was still potentially a cause for concern.

Fourteen of the 37 referrals were found to have no grounds for reasonable concern while 15 require additional information and eight have reasonable grounds for concern.

The report explained that on five occasions, gardaí were notified of complaints and also had early involvement in one other instance. In 28 instances it was recorded that garda notification was not required.

On three occasions, however, gardaí were not consulted when there was a strong case for doing so.

According to the report: 'It should have been pursued further by Sunbeam House Services Staff and, in responding to the preliminary screening, by the HSE Safeguarding and Protection team'.

The 'high turnover of Social Workers in Sunbeam House Services' was referenced in the review and it was outlined that the lack of social workers towards the end of 2016 had an impact on the slowing of the reactivness of staff and the instances of unreported incidents which occurred.

The report said there was a 'lack of ownership' by Sunbeam House Services staff of safeguarding practice and said that it is seen as a reporting procedure rather than an act of responsibility.

'Sunbeam House Services should focus on the learning zone of high accountability and high quality trusting teamwork,' the report said.

In a letter to the Family Advocacy Group, chief officer of Community Healthcare East, Martina Queally, said: 'The HSE has accepted the findings and the recommendations of the review and I am making arrangements to meet with the CEO and representatives of the board through the ongoing HSE Integrated Management Review process to discuss and plan any actions arising from recommendations'.

Speaking following publication of the Jeyes review, Sunbeam House Services CEO Hugh Kane said that since 2016, which the safeguarding review refers to, much work has been carried out to ensure that service staff are aware of their responsibilities to report incidents of concern.

'Safeguarding is everyone's responsibility and while we have addressed staffing issues and now have a full team of social workers, over 250 staff members have received safeguarding training. We are confident that these difficulties and shortcomings are well and truly resolved and that if an issue is raised, that a process is in place to deal with it,' he said.

Regarding a lack of confidence expressed from family members of clients within the service, Mr Kane conceded that rebuilding trust 'is a challenge'.

'It is something we have to work at. No relationship can be rebuilt overnight and where there is mistrust, it takes time to build it back up again. We have to deal with the issues raised and communicate effectively with the families,' he said.

Wicklow People