Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health David Cullinane TD has said a new approach to adult safeguarding is necessary, following the HSE National Safeguarding Office’s report which showed there was a decline in reports of neglect and abuse in 2020.
Teachta Cullinane said that the pandemic increased isolation and therefore the levels of oversight from the watchful eye of family and friends.
The Waterford TD called on the Government to expedite adult safeguarding legislation in line with the Sinn Féin Dáil motion in July, which was not opposed by Government, and Sinn Féin’s policy published over the summer ‘Quality Care for All’.
Teachta Cullinane said:
“The HSE Safeguarding Office’s Annual Report underlines the need for adult safeguarding legislation and major reform in this area.
“Social workers have concerns that actual abuse and neglect did not decrease during the pandemic, and I share these concerns.
“However, due to lockdowns, the watchful eye of family and friends was absent for much of 2020 as we know.
“We urgently need adult safeguarding legislation to underpin a new approach and put in place a fully resourced plan, to put safeguarding teams in a position to be more proactive in order to engage in greater outreach.
“We also need mandatory reporting of suspected abuse or neglect to an independent safeguarding authority, with a system of accountability and sanctions at an organisational level where failures to meet standards and regulations has led to abuse or neglect.
“The Dáil motion passed in July was not opposed by Government, and acknowledged the problems in this area.
“There needs to be a strategic plan for reaching out to those in care and a legal right of entry for safeguarding teams. They should not need the permission of nursing homes where potential abuse is occurring before they can investigate.
“As we saw in Ard Greíne in Donegal, there are many people in care who are suffering in silence even where concerns have been raised with management.
“This shows the clear need for an independent safeguarding authority which can oversee, monitor, and implement adult safeguarding.
“We also need to bring a new voice and perspective to policy development in the Department of Health through a Chief Health and Social Care Professional, similar to the Chief Medical Officer, which would bring the expertise of such disciplines as social work to the table at a senior level.
“If we want to root out abuse and neglect, we need serious legislation supported by proper resourcing to bring coherence to safeguarding and empower teams to conduct outreach work and any investigations they see fit.”