Statement by Minister Finian McGrath
I welcome the publication today of the report by the Áras Attracta Swinford Review Group and I express my sincerest thanks to Dr Kevin McCoy and his team for their outstanding work over the past year and a half. I am very pleased with the way that Dr. McCoy and his colleagues put the residents and their families at the centre of their approach to this review and also ensured that they were fully briefed on its findings before today’s publication. My thoughts are with those residents and families today.
Like everyone who watched the Prime Time Investigates programme in December 2014, I was shocked and distressed by the revelations of extremely poor standards of care and the unacceptable mistreatment of vulnerable residents in Áras Attracta.
This report makes it clear that while there have been many improvements since then, there is still a huge amount to be done. The report makes a compelling case for change in the way service is delivered at Áras Attracta. I am committed to ensuring that this change takes place and residents and their families are central to the process.
The “What Matters Most” report takes a detailed look at operations in Áras Attracta and has very clear and practical recommendations on where we go from here. The most important message is that the voices of the residents need to be facilitated, listened to and promoted. The Group makes it clear that there must be a move to a rights-based social model of service delivery. The current system promotes dependence over independence and doesn’t equip people to make decisions about their own lives. This must change, and a much greater emphasis must be placed on person-centred practices at all levels of service. Finally, the report states that the leadership and management of Áras Attracta needs to be strengthened and enhanced. They need to adopt current national policies and good practice, and develop a strategic plan for the centre. All staff need to have a clear understanding of their role and the efforts required to achieve the goals set out.
Áras Attracta is an old-style congregated setting and this Government is committed to moving people out of these settings, to allow them to lead fuller lives in the community. The Review Group’s report contains a recommended action plan for achieving this, using a person-centred planning process, based on the person’s will and preference, in partnership with their families and in a supportive environment. The Government has provided a dedicated €100m capital fund to facilitate decongregation over the period 2016-2021. €20m has been provided for 2016 and Áras Attracta has been prioritised to receive funding in this first phase.
A great number of improvements have taken place in Áras Attracta since the start of 2015. There has been an additional investment of €3m in staffing with large numbers of additional social care workers and healthcare assistants recruited. A new full-time on-site Director of Services has been appointed, along with dedicated managers for each of the three designated centres. All staff have undergone safeguarding training and a new complaints management structure is now in place.
The report makes it clear, howeve,r that the changes to date at Áras Attracta have been driven primarily by compliance issues. Much deeper, transformational change is needed to make the move to a rights-based, person-centred model of service delivery that will ensure that residents have the same opportunity as anyone else to live a satisfying and valued life. I am committed to making sure that the voices of the residents and their families are at the heart of this process.