Questions raised | 

Minister seeks report about alleged rape of woman with special needs in care centre

The woman was allegedly abused by a male staff member over a prolonged period during the pandemic, and at a time when her family had limited access to her
Minister for Disability Anne Rabbitte

Minister for Disability Anne Rabbitte

Maeve Sheehan

The Minister for Disability has asked the Health Service Executive for a report about allegations that a woman with special needs was sexually abused and raped in a residential facility during lockdown.

Anne Rabbitte, Junior Minister at the Department of Health, has met the mother of the young woman and an advocacy group supporting her family.

The minister is understood to have raised a number of questions around the safeguarding of residents at the centre, and how concerns about the woman raised by her family were dealt with.

The abuse is alleged to have occurred in a designated centre for people with disability. The woman was allegedly abused by a male staff member over a prolonged period during the Covid-19 pandemic, and at a time when her family had limited access to her.

She is believed to have disclosed the abuse to her family late last year, after she was taken out of the facility.

The allegations are being investigated by the Garda’s protective services unit.

The advocacy group Care Champions asked that the facility not be identified to protect the identity of the alleged victim.

However, it is understood the service is run by a voluntary provider funded by the HSE.

The facility where the abuse is alleged to have taken place specialises in caring for people with disabilities. Visits at such centres were cancelled or curtailed for much of the time after Covid restrictions were introduced in March 2020.

Gardaí confirmed that an allegation of sexual assault at a care home facility is under investigation.

Majella Beattie, of Care Champions, confirmed the meeting with the minister last week, describing it as “productive and helpful”.

It is understood the minister has asked the HSE for a report on the case, and has raised a number of questions around the safeguarding of residents.

The Irish Association of Social Workers has highlighted concerns about the protection of vulnerable people living in residential services.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), which regulates the service, highlighted more failures in safeguarding of vulnerable adults in a recent report.

The report highlighted concerns about a resident with intellectual disabilities who was allegedly found to be viewing images of child sexual abuse online.

The regulator raised serious concerns about the management of the HSE services and said HIQA inspectors were not provided with assurances that the incident was appropriately managed.

Ms Rabbitte is now seeking an independent review of disability services in the north-west.

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