Taoiseach apologises to 'Grace' for 'disgraceful treatment' in foster home

The woman was left in the care of the home from 1989 until 2009

Taoiseach apologises to 'Grace' for 'disgraceful treatment' in foster home

File photo. Image: RollingNews.ie

The Taoiseach Enda Kenny has apologised to a disabled woman who was left in an abusive foster home for 20 years.

He described as "shocking" two reports published on failures at the facility in the south east.

A Commission of Investigation is to be established in the coming weeks.

Mr Kenny addressed the issue in the Dáil, saying: “The very least this House can do is apologise to Grace and her family.

“Her treatment was a disgrace to us as a country.

“The Government is committed to the establishment of the Commission of Investigation – Minister (Finan) McGrath will bring those terms of reference to Cabinet next Tuesday.”

The HSE has reiterated its apology to the woman.

The apology comes as the HSE releases the reports relating to the so-called 'Grace' case at the foster home.

The woman was left in the care of the foster home in 1989 and left there until 2009, despite several concerns about abusive conditions.

According to the reports, the foster family in question were approved for holiday respite foster care in 1985 - but there is no evidence to suggest they were ever approved to be full-time foster carers.

The report authors also identified "inadequate monitoring, supervision and oversight of care" and "serious deficiencies in record management".

The second report identifies other issues with the 47 people who were placed with them, including allegations one male was locked in a cupboard.

In a statement, Dr Cathal Morgan, head of operations of HSE Disability Services, said: "You will see from the Devine report that it wasn’t possible to clearly establish why certain decisions were taken and actions not taken.

"We welcome the establishment of the Commission of Investigation that will have greater powers of compellability in order to answer these questions."

The HSE's head of disability services, Dr Cathal Morgan, says the agency missed several chances to remove Grace from the home.

Aileen Colley, chief officer of Community Health Organisation 5, said: "The HSE is concerned at the serious deficits in the care provided to children and young adults with an intellectual disability who had placements with this family, primarily during the 1980s and early 1990s.

"I want to restate our apology to the people concerned and their families, in particular, to the one service user who was the main subject of the Conal Devine inquiry."

She added: “It is important to reassure those concerned, and the wider public, that the HSE did not wait for the reports to be published in order to commence a structured process, and working closely with Tusla, to address the deficiencies identified in child care and disability services, and to act on the reports’ recommendations."

Tusla response

Responding to the reports, the Child and Family Agency Tusla said: "We can confirm that Tusla staff referred to in these reports were identified to us by the HSE in the last two weeks. We have met with staff concerned to advise them of the publication of the reports and have completed an initial HR review process.

"We are currently examining the reports published today and will further review the individual staff involvement in the case at the time. If any issues emerge as a result of this review, further HR processes will be invoked, as necessary."

Allegations of abuse first surfaced via a whistleblower who contacted Fianna Fáil's John McGuinness and Fine Gael's John Deasy.

The HSE has acknowledged the role of the whistleblowers "whose Protected Disclosures contributed significantly to the establishment of the Devine inquiry".

However, Deputy McGuinness earlier said he was not expecting to learn anything new today.

He told Newstalk Breakfast that nobody has been named in the documents.

"The reports don't tell us anything that we didn't know already from the whistleblowers - and in fact the whistleblowers give a far more detailed account," he explained.

"[The reports] really just outline the approach of the HSE - but there is nobody named, there is nobody found responsible.

"No-one has been arrested, nobody has been charged - I understand that there's ongoing investigations, but that simply isn't good enough."

Political reaction

Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said that thorough assessments of care centres are required to ensure there are "no other Graces" in the system.

"In light of all that has unfolded I believe that we need to review the way in which care settings are assessed," he said. "There needs to be a step change in how centres for the most vulnerable are assessed. HIQA must have an enhanced role in the regulation and inspection of these care placement homes and must be appropriately resourced in order to fulfill its extended responsibilities.

"We need to avoid such abominable failures happening into the future. We need to ensure that there are regular, unannounced visitations and thorough assessments of all centres across the country to ensure that there are no other Graces within the system."