Political will required to help the weak

Today is the first day of awareness raising to prevent adult abuse in this country.

While noteworthy, many would argue that Adult Protection Day has come too late.

When the first Covid-19 restrictions were introduced last year, domestic violence and child protection services were put into action through public information campaigns.

The public and frontline community workers have been urged to be vigilant. Monitoring and Reporting Concerns – Ensure children and people suffering from domestic violence can seek help.

There was no comparable campaign for vulnerable adults.

Protection means taking action to uphold rights by promoting health and wellbeing and reducing the risk of harm.

According to Safeguarding Ireland, families, services and professionals work together to prevent abuse, neglect or coercive control by adults.

According to the National Safeguarding Office’s 2020 report, the most common is
The nature of the alleged abuse was psychological

A recent report from the HSE’s National Safeguarding Office showed that the number of concerns about the protection of adults has decreased over the past year.

This was during a time of the pandemic when many adults at risk were trapped in a cocoon. There is concern that behind closed doors they were experiencing higher rates of abuse.

Social workers were among those allowed into facilities such as nursing homes during the lockdown.

In some nursing homes, social workers in basic and palliative care provided emotional, social and terminal care for residents and their families during the pandemic.

They were the eyes and ears of many families during the pandemic.

They repeatedly expressed concern about the well-being of residents in nursing homes who were unable to see their loved ones.

In parallel, shelter social workers continued to investigate harrowing cases of rape, sexual assault, physical abuse, financial abuse, and neglect of residents.

No lessons were learned from Leas Cross in 2005 or from Áras Attracta in 2014, according to the Irish Association of Social Workers.

He noted the lack of urgency on the part of politicians to legislate to protect security.

Worryingly, the IASW says that without adult protection laws, their teams cannot protect and support elderly or vulnerable adults in nursing homes.

The assistant professor for social work at UCD, Dr. Sarah Donnelly said there is ample evidence that adults who are vulnerable to harm in Ireland need the same legal protection that is given to children.

“Unless legislation moves forward, we will continue to fail to protect and uphold the human rights of adults who are vulnerable to harm.”

The requirement for legislation was recently taken up by the HIQA (Health Information and Quality Authority) in an inspection report on disability services. Safeguarding Ireland, which organized today’s public campaign, has also called on politicians to act.

It’s amazing that adult protection legislation hasn’t been a priority since Leas Cross nearly 20 years ago.

The wheels turn, but slowly.

The Legislative Reform Commission is currently working on a final report on a legal framework for the protection of adults, while the Ministry of Health says it will launch a public consultation on this issue in the coming months.

The ministry has announced that a draft directive will be submitted to the government for approval in the first half of next year, after which the legislation will be prepared.

As a source frustratedly put it, “The Oireachtas are spending days debating the possible appointment of Katherine Zappone as UN special envoy while we await legislation to protect people.”

Another body that has called for protective legislation is the HSE’s National Safeguarding Office.

This is the agency that published the National Independent Review Panel (NIRP) “Brandon” report which was tasked with investigating 108 “incidents of sexually inappropriate behavior” by one resident versus 18 other residents of HSE-run community services for people with intellectual disabilities in Co Donegal.

The “Brandon” report examines abuse of intellectually disabled adults
in care facilities of the HSE

Despite requests – also from the Disability Minister Anne Rabbitte – to the HSE to publish the report, it has not yet done so.

Another case that has come to the public again in the last few weeks is the abuse case “Grace”, which was described in the Dáil by a TD as the “greatest scandal of our time”.

‘Grace’ – a mentally handicapped woman who was placed in a foster home in the southeast of the country – has been ill-treated and neglected for 20 years.

Two interim reports published at the end of September found “systemic failures” by officials in handling the case.

In a powerful Dáil post, Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness vividly outlined cases where he believed people “should have spoken for them”.

Deputy McGuinness was extremely critical of the Gardaí, the Health Service and the Ministry of Health.

He said there was already enough public information to prove that ‘Grace’ had failed the state.

The worry is how many others have failed.

A study commissioned by Safeguarding Ireland last year found that 12% of all adults had experienced adult abuse in the previous six months and that a third said they had ever experienced abuse.

It has to be taken into account; This is the abuse that has been exposed.

Much of this is not reported.

Today is an important day to highlight the importance of protection.

However, political will is required to ensure that legislation and politics protect the most vulnerable in society.


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