Sunbeam House Services provides vital services to adults with intellectual disabilities in Wicklow with full-time residential, day services and respite care. There are hundreds of service users and their families requiring the services of Sunbeam House Services throughout Wicklow but particularly in facilities in Bray, Wicklow and Arklow. Needless to say, any organisation providing such services needs to be fully transparent and provide a service that has the full confidence of the service users, their families, the front-line staff and the State agencies that act on behalf of the taxpayer who fund these services.
Recent and routine HIQA inspections have found failings in the operations at Sunbeam House Services which, along with family and staff complaints, have led to a recent assurance review by the HSE that again has found failings in the operations of Sunbeam House Services. The report refers to 284 separate complaints being registered against Sunbeam House Services between January 2013 and September 2016. Concerned family members have been in contact with me since July 2016 about their serious complaints and concerns. I have attempted to get answers to very serious allegations including the mistreatment of service users and serious failings in management at Sunbeam House Services. I have been attempting to do this without increasing further the anxiety to the family members of service users and to the service users of other Wicklow based organisations that may be involved in a proposed merger with Sunbeam House Services. Information supplied to me by concerned families suggests that long-serving social workers and a senior medical doctor involved with Sunbeam House Services have serious concerns about the procedures, care services and management at Sunbeam.
The removal of the assurance report from the HSE website has convinced me that I needed to bring these issues directly to the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, and for a publicly accountable response on the floor of the Dáil. I am also concerned about the apparent lack of a protected disclosures policy at Sunbeam House Services. Given the responsibility of care given to any organisation providing services to adults with intellectual disabilities, the absence of such a policy is, quite simply, disgraceful. The families need to know if protected disclosures have been made to the HSE or to Sunbeam House Services, the number and gravity of such disclosures and the response to such disclosures, including reporting to the Garda where required.
Transparency and accountability in the provision of care services should be front and centre in every organisation providing such services to the most vulnerable members of our community. I am shocked about what is contained in the reports and how the reports have been removed from the website. From my contact with some families I know they have been very reluctant to go public because of a deep seated fear that their loved ones' level of service may be affected. The fact that family members of service users are living in fear is enough of a disgrace to warrant a serious, rapid and public response from the HSE and from the Minister.