I’ve never had any contact with Leigh Gath before. I only heard about her when I contacted Gary Lee, of the Centre for Independent Living.
I remember with a still very living anger, the horrible awkwardness of being left to fend for myself, while my “carer” took a two hour break.
I could write ad nauseam about these occasions, even though the merest morsel of dignity that I have left, would be sacrificed!
I can’t let those painful memories escape onto the internet, but I feel so sad for somebody who is perhaps non-verbal, or confined to a residential facility.
If they don’t have a good family to speak up for them, they are screwed in every way possible, with absolutely no pleasure, only its isolating opposite.
Unfortunately Áras Attracta was not an isolated case, in my opinion. This is exactly what happens, when vulnerable, perhaps non-verbal people, are reliant on the paid mercy of members of the “charity” industry and a largely ignorant state.
I thank her for her honesty, fast response and inherent knowledge that there is so much more to be done, as regards rights and protections for people with disabilities (hugely confusing umbrella term, that it is) in Ireland.
1)What exactly is the nature of your role?
“My role is Confidential Recipient for the HSE. It is my job to be a voice for vulnerable adults in services funded or partially funded by the HSE. If someone has a concern of abuse/neglect or other problems with the service, they can contact this office and I can pass that concern (with their permission) to the correct person within the HSE who can work with the person to solve the issue. I support the complainant throughout the process”.
2)When did you start and under what circumstances?
“Tony O’Brien – Director General of the HSE – appointed me the week the abuse in Aras Attracta was highlighted by the Prime Time program. I started work on 18th December, 2014″.
3/What does your normal daily workload consist of and what kind of mail do you receive?
“No such thing as a “normal” daily workload Eric. My phone is on from around 8am – 8pm Monday-Friday. I, when necessary, travel the country to meet and support families or individuals at meetings with the HSE or providers of services, if the family wish me to be there. I also answer queries, concerns and complaints from my office in Limerick. I attend conferences to tell families and people with disabilities about my role. My job is national and so I can be requested to go anywhere in the country. People contact me through mail, email and by phone”.
4)How long have you been in this position/nd how long will you continue in it?
“I have been in the position since December 2014. This was a new role. I have one admin support person who is in the office when I have to travel. I have been asked to continue for at least the next two years, although the contract states “until the job is done” so it is open-ended”.
5)What has the concerted effort on the part the HSE been, (especially after the Aras Attracta episode) to safeguard the welfare of people with various kinds of disabilities in residential facilities?
“ believe that seeing what went on in Aras Attracta was a wake up call for the whole country. Safeguarding teams, designated people in each residential facility, as well as my role has been added to try to safeguard people in residential care, whether they have disabilities or are older people. I think most staff working within the residential facilities are caring”.
6)Do you think that Aras Attracta was an isolated case, or just the tip of an embarrassing iceberg?
“I think we only have to look at first the church scandal, then Aras Attracta to realise there has been historically something very wrong in Irish society that people were willing to turn away from. I don’t think Aras Attracta was an isolated case but do seriously hope that there are not many”.
7)How far away are we do from a more inclusive Ireland, where people with various kinds of disabilities are mainstreamed into everyday communities, as opposed to being isolated in residential centres?
“I believe that the Government (whoever they be) must fund the HSE properly to provide community based services so that people with disabilities can become real members of their community. I also believe the Government must allow people to keep their disability allowance (or part of it) and allow people with disabilities to go on the live employment register as transport to and from work can be more expensive. PA services also need to be properly funded and a full cabinet Minister for Disabilities needs to be in place before people with disabilities can enjoy true inclusiveness”.
8) How can someone who is non verbal or intellectually disabled or who is afraid to voice their criticism of their paid and needed surroundings, go about reporting an incident or complaint?
“Anyone can get in touch with me if they want to bring forward a complaint, without fear of recrimination. Also, the National Advocacy Service can provide someone with a specific problem with an advocate. There is a designated “safe” person in every residential centre as well”.
9) What evidence can you give to reassure both the family members and residents of such places, that their concerns will be heard and acted upon?
“I think the best reassurance is word of mouth from others who have used this service. In 2015 I answered 119 concerns/complaints – with an 88% closure rate before the end of last year”.
Links used for this post:
Gary Lee of the Centre for Independent Living http://www.dublincil.org/staff.asp
National Advocacy Service: http://www.disability-federation.ie/index.php?uniqueID=10744