Minister of State for Disability Anne Rabbitte has said that a framework for an independent review of safeguarding in disability services in Donegal is hoped to be in place by June.
The progress was confirmed during a topical issues debate on Thursday evening to discuss the recently published Hiqa report on governance and safeguarding in HSE-designated centres for people with disabilities in Donegal.
The inspections follow publication of the Brandon Report Executive Summary last year, which found that adults with learning difficulties had been subjected to sustained sexual abuse by another resident at a HSE-run facility in Donegal for over 15 years.
Following the HIQA assessments, the Chief Inspector required the HSE to address its poor oversight and governance arrangements at local, regional and national level.
Addressing the Dáil during yesterday’s debate, Deputy Pringle said: “The governance and safeguarding report into CHO1 published by Hiqa last Friday has confirmed many of the points that I have been making around the handling of the Brandon case and the subsequent Brandon report.”
He said: “Importantly, Hiqa say in the report, as I have reiterated many, many times throughout this saga, that no fault lay with the frontline staff in the centres and that safeguarding concerns were being responded to appropriately at that level.”
However, he said that Hiqa has acknowledged the problems are in communication, governance and oversight of safeguarding procedures, especially follow up and sustaining positive change. They point to this occurring at middle management, regional and national management levels, he said.
The deputy also took issue with Hiqa’s assertion that this was prevalent only in the Donegal area of CHO1.
Deputy Pringle said: “I believe that if an in-depth audit was carried out nationwide, it would find similar systemic failures in management, reporting and oversight. And probably not just confined to disability services, either.”
He said: “In my mind, Minister, the problems all stem from a basic resource issue. Frontline staff are being asked to do a job that there is often not the capacity to do. Budgets are dictated from the top down and woe betide the local manager who would be brave enough to raise their hand and say that they can’t do the job with what they have been given.”
Deputy Pringle also credited Minister Rabbitte for her work on the issue, saying, “If it wasn’t for yourself and the work that you have done, we wouldn’t have gotten as far because I would have been shouting into the vacuum.”
Minister Rabbitte also thanked Deputy Pringle for his continued work and advocacy, and repeated her call on the HSE to make the Brandon report available to the public, a call Deputy Pringle echoed in his remarks.
Deputy Pringle said: “The one thing I would say, and I think needs to be said and can’t be said often enough as well, is that this is not a Donegal issue. This is an issue for the national body and it says it in the (Hiqa) report as well, that it goes right up to national management.”
Minister Rabbitte said she is working with officials in the Department of Health and the Department of Equality to develop some form of review or oversight of safeguarding in Donegal, led by an expert specialising in social care and safeguarding who is independent of the HSE and Hiqa.
The minister said work is under way and she hoped it would be expedited to have a framework in place by June.