Last year proved to be a busy year for the Office of the Confidential Recipient - a national service that deals with concerns and complaints relating to vulnerable adults in HSE or HSE-funded care services.
Leigh Gath was appointed as the Confidential Recipient at the end of 2014 and since then, she has worked "proactively to be a voice for vulnerable adults with disabilities, or older persons who may otherwise not be heard by the HSE".
The office has just published its 2018 Annual Report and according to Ms Gath, 2018 proved to be a busy year, with 206 concerns received, 39 meetings held with families and/or advocates and 50 meetings held with HSE management.
Of the 206 concerns reported last year, 130 related to care issues, such as people waiting for nursing home placements following discharge from hospital, people waiting for supports in the community and problems with the provision of respite services.
"I would like to see respite services more widely available so that more people with disabilities and their families can benefit from this vital service. I would like to see more funding made available for respite breaks. I would also like to see this service available in areas where no respite places are available," Ms Gath said.
The office also dealt with 76 safeguarding concerns and complaints, including serious allegations of abuse and concerns about the neglect of people by other family members.
Of the 206 concerns reported, 83% were fully dealt with during the year. Of these, 62% were fully dealt with within one month.
Since taking up the role in late 2014, Ms Gath has dealt with almost 750 formal complaints/concerns. However, the 2018 report notes that one of the major issues that came to light in last year was "the lack of communication at times between the HSE and my office".
"This led, at times, to me not being able to support people raising concerns, as without communication, I could not inform those people as to how their concerns were being handled, or whether issues had been dealt with," she noted.
Ms Gath said it is "reassuring" that people are using her office and she urged anyone who is worried about the care and treatment of someone in a disability or residential service, to come forward and make contact.
"While a culture of fear in coming forward is slowly eroding, it is important to give assurance that every concern received by my office is taken seriously. Should a staff member wish to raise a concern or complaint in an anonymous capacity, it will be received by my office and reviewed and investigated in the same manner as other concerns or complaints," she explained.
People with disabilities, older people, their families, advocates, members of the public and staff are welcome to contact the office if they feel they have experienced or witnessed what they consider may be abuse, neglect or bad practice in care provided by the HSE or their providers in residential, day or home services.
To contact the Confidential Recipient, call 1890 100 014, email firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to The Office of the Confidential Recipient, Vocational Training Centre, Dooradoyle, Co Limerick.