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Ian Lynch. Photograph by John Kelly

‘Resident safety must be protected’ says councillor about Kilrush facility

An Cathaoirleach for West Clare has urged Clare Mental Health and the HSE to reconsider their decision to withdraw night-time assistance for independent living clients in Kilrush saying residents safety and well-being must be protected above all else.
The Clare Champion has seen a letter from Councillor Ian Lynch (Ind) to Nursing at Clare Mental Health where he has expressed his urgent concern regarding the withdrawal of night-time assistance for independent living clients in Kilrush. He has urged Clare Mental Health and the HSE to reconsider their decision to withdraw night-time assistance saying any transition of property assets must protect residents safety and well-being above all else, and must ensure that they continue to receive the level of care and support they require.
Mark Quinn, SIPTU Health Official for the Mid-West who represents supervisors working with the Sophia Housing home explained that people with mental health issues who live in the residence are being cared for by the HSE employees he represents.
“The hostel supervisors we are talking to are taking very good care of the service users whilst living with them in the house. The supervisors were invited to a meeting at Kilrush with HSE nursing management,” he said.
“They informed us a company called Sophia Housing were taking ownership out of the HSE and a psychiatrist from the mental health team had done a clinical assessment [on the residents], and that going forward, there would be no care.”
Mr Quinn said that according to the supervisors, the assessment by the team took just 15 minutes.
“According to our members, they are living with these people 24/7. They have serious concerns if night-time care is taken away for these service users, and that their mental care will be challenged as a result,” he said.
Mr Quinn said that both supervisors raised serious concerns that the Kilrush independent living clients will be negatively impacted without the night-time assistance they require, and have become accustomed to.
He also added that HSE nursing management acknowledged in the meeting they had not conversed with the services users’ families.
The meeting took place around four weeks ago, and he has no idea if they have spoken with the families since.
From SIPTU’s perspective, they have serious concerns not only for the impact on the residents but also for the supervisors and their loss of earnings.
According to Mr Quinn, their members will lose their overnight allowance, and therefore they will be financially worse off. However, he did note they will not lose their jobs but they will have to be redeployed and that redeployment will only be in day services.
“Two employees are immediately affected with a third employee is on long-term sick leave, and they are not happy,” he said.
“One of the employees has over 30 years experience in night services and the other 25 plus years, and they have built their lives around that.”
Councillor Lynch said he has been contacted by a number of locals who are concerned about the potential risks associated with the withdrawal of this assistance. The transition of properties from HSE to Sophia Housing will result in a “significant alteration” in the level of night-time assistance provided to residents, he claims.
“Specifically, a number of residents who are currently deemed to require nighttime care assistance under the HSE are now facing a withdrawal of this vital support under Sophia Housing. This change is deeply troubling and raises serious concerns about the safety and well-being of these vulnerable residents,” he said.
“It is incomprehensible that individuals who were assessed as requiring night-time assistance under the HSE are suddenly deemed not to require such support under the new management.”
“I have been contacted by numerous individuals within the community who share my concerns regarding the potential risks associated with the withdrawal of night-time assistance. The safety and well-being of these residents must be our utmost priority, and any decision that compromises their care is unacceptable.”
In response, the HSE aid that it has undertaken a National Transfer of Ownership Housing Programme across the country in partnership with approved housing bodies over the last number of years. A spokesperson stated that, in the Midwest, Sophia Housing in Clare and HAIL Housing in Limerick are the approved housing bodies and thee purpose of the programme is to facilitate and support the transfer of low support HSE mental health housing to approved housing bodies in order to provide secure tenancies for existing and future tenants.
“Under this initiative each resident has access to a dedicated tenancy support worker to assist them with their tenancy,” said a spokesperson.
“The benefits of these formalised tenancies for residents is that they are protected under statute with open ended tenancies, a home for life and all the associated tenant rights and landlord obligations. Tenants will have greater ownership of their arrangements and this model is a move away from the outdated institutionalised model. The transfer of ownership will also see these residences refurbished and maintained to rigorous standards with arrangements in place for prompt responses to maintenance requests.
“Only residents housing rights and entitlements are affected by this process. Residents will continue to access their care and treatment, including Mental Health Services, through HSE Community Services. Appropriate supports, based on clinically assessed need, will continue to be provided for residents as per individual care plans.
“It is a requirement of the National Transfer Project that residents who agree to transfer to Sophia Housing must not require overnight supervision. Only residents who are deemed suitable and assessed as not requiring overnight supervision are involved in this process. On call support will be available at night time from Clare Mental Health Service and Sophia Housing.
“A thorough process of engagement has been underway for a period of time with residents, family members and staff in preparation for this transfer of ownership programme.
“Engagement with staff has been undertaken and there are ongoing discussions with the small number of staff directly affected by this process taking into consideration the overall service requirements.
“This project has been successfully rolled out in a number of areas across the county, including the Limerick area and is a very positive initiative that gives all residents involved as much independence and autonomy as possible within their own home setting.”

Sharon Dolan D'Arcy

Sharon Dolan D'Arcy is originally from Ennis. Her work as a print journalist has appeared in a number of regional publications. She worked as court reporter at The Sligo Weekender newspaper and is a former editor of The Athenry News and Views. She covers West Clare news.

About Sharon Dolan D'Arcy

Sharon Dolan D'Arcy is originally from Ennis. Her work as a print journalist has appeared in a number of regional publications. She worked as court reporter at The Sligo Weekender newspaper and is a former editor of The Athenry News and Views. She covers West Clare news.

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