HSE aware of ‘Mary’ case much sooner than first admitted
It has recently been discovered by RTE’s investigative programme ‘This Week’ that the HSE were aware of the ‘Mary’ case involving a young woman with intellectual disabilities that was deemed to be at risk, much earlier than first reported.
‘Mary’ was left in a foster care home for eighteen months after allegations of abuse were raised against a carer there.
Minutes from an internal meeting in September 2014 note that the teenager’s local HSE Disability Service came to the conclusion that the 19 year old with intellectual disabilities should be removed from the foster home where the sexual abuse allegations were raised. However, the young woman was not removed from the home until February 2016 – almost eighteen months later.
A member of the foster parent’s extended family made the allegations against the foster parent. There are no other allegations of foster care abuse against this particular family. In June and July 2014 respectively, allegations were made by Tusla to Mary’s service provider and the HSE.
After the allegations were deemed credible in June 2014, two other children were removed from the foster home by Tusla, who ceased to use the family as foster care providers. A note from an internal meeting held in September 2014 stated that ‘Mary must be removed’. A listing on the Intellectual Disabilities Database showed that Mary required an emergency placement, around the same time as the allegations were found to be credible.
However in late 2014, according to HSE files, local Tusla staff advised the HSE that it no longer felt there was a specific risk to Mary and a further Tusla risk assessment arrived at the same conclusion, with a Tusla report concluding in January 2016 that the vulnerable young woman should remain in the foster home.
A senior manager within Tusla told the HSE in February 2016 that ‘with hindsight…this advice was incorrect.”
Other documents show that there was disagreement and confusion within State agencies as to who was responsible for Mary’s care. Upon request by Tusla and the HSE the local provider was asked to carry out a risk assessment of the safety of her placement, to which a reply was received that ‘they had no legal mandate to do so.”
“No arrangements have been made for the service provider to be legally responsible for Mary’s future. We are concerned that Mary is safe in her home,,,,but the responsibility for Mary’s future lies with the HSE.”
Minutes from a care plan meeting in March 2013 outline the division of responsibility for the vulnerable teen’s care between the HSE Child and Family Service (now known as Tusla), HSE Adult Disability Services and the local provider after she turned 18 years of age. Tusla stated at this meeting that it couldn’t provide adequate supports to Mary due to her complex needs.
Mary’s removal from foster home described as ‘traumatic’
The effects of an overnight change in care setting (rather than a gradual transition) left Mary feeling ‘heartbroken’ and was described as being ‘particularly traumatic for her.’A letter dated the 3rd March 2016 to the HSE from Mary’s service provider complained that the manner of Mary’s removal from the care home was ‘thoughtless and cruel’, and that a more ‘person-centred’ transition should have been planned and allowed for.
All agencies involved have declined to comment until an ongoing inter-agency review of the case has been completed.
Listen: HSE knew of abuse risks in 2014