Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle welcomes independent review into disability services

Pringle welcomes independent review into disability services

ndependent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, has welcomed confirmation that an independent safeguarding exercise into disability services is hoped to be set up and running next month, saying the HSE does not have the interest of families at heart.

Deputy Pringle raised the issue with Minister Anne Rabbitte in the Dáil on Tuesday, during topical issues.

Deputy Pringle said: “Your work as Minister with the residents and the families of residents has been exceptional. I know that the families have faith in you and believe that you want to do what is right for their loved ones. But it is clear, as if it wasn’t before now, that the HSE does not have the interest of families at heart.

“The HSE has the interests of the organisation at heart and like all bodies it is about saving the organisation and protecting it that is important. Families and residents are secondary to that.

“Throughout the whole time the HSE has only been concerned with containing the Brandon issue. They closed ranks at every opportunity. That went right up to HQ within the HSE as well, and there is no way that this is only a Donegal issue. I believe that the HSE at all levels nationally have questions to answer on this issue as well. Both Brandon and all the residents have been let down by the HSE and the Department of Health,” he said.

Deputy Pringle said: “I bring this up now because of what is happening to families and residents in the last few weeks in Ard Gréine.

“The Donegal HSE are now closing down Ard Gréine Court and moving the residents to ‘de-congregated’ settings around the county. They are doing this without consultation with the families or the residents themselves. It is hard to believe that after all that has happened that the HSE will still behave in this way. Some residents are quite elderly and Ard Gréine is their home, but the HSE doesn’t recognise that. Once again they decide and everyone has to accept.

“The brother of one resident said, ‘after Brandon they said it would all be person-centred. But nothing has changed. It’s the same old, same old, covering their tracks, talking down to us’.

“Apparently the HSE have said that ‘each resident will be at the centre of the decision-making process for their move.’ No one involved with Brandon believes that unfortunately,” the deputy said.

Deputy Pringle first raised the issue of the Brandon Report in the Dáil in July of 2021, after working with a whistleblower who had come to him in 2016. Deputy Pringle said he raised the issue in the Dáil due to the lack of an adequate response during those years.

During their exchange on Tuesday, Minister Rabbitte said she has met with family members and the whistleblower in the last six weeks. The minister said: “It’s unfortunate to see that the lack of communication which was there in 2018 is still there in 2023.”

Minister Rabbitte said she is developing a safeguarding assurance exercise to be undertaken by an independent expert which would build on improvements in safeguarding under way in CHO1. She said her hope is to ensure the voices of residents and their families, as well as those working in the area, contribute to the ongoing effort to strengthen safeguarding policy and practice, and her aim is to have it set up and running by the end of June.

The minister said families need to be reassured that their loved ones are in a safe environment and said safeguarding is a priority for her.

Deputy Pringle thanked the minister for her interventions and said: “This review group that you’re putting in place needs to work and needs to work very well and it needs to work for Donegal but also for the whole country because there’s big problems right the whole way through, right up to the top in the HSE as well and that has to be addressed too.”