The Irish Times – Wednesday, February 3, 2010
CARL O’BRIEN Chief Reporter

ABOUT 4,200 people with intellectual disabilities are living in outdated institutions or group homes which need to be closed down or replaced, a report commissioned for the Health Service Executive (HSE) is expected to conclude.

Officials familiar with the draft findings of a report on “congregated settings” say the process of providing proper community-based care facilities could take years and require substantial resources.

Of the people with intellectual disabilities living in institutional care, some 300 are residing inappropriately in psychiatric hospitals, even though they may not have a mental illness. A further 350 disabled people live in “de-designated” units, parts of psychiatric hospitals that were reclassified as community units about 20 years ago.

Latest international research indicates that the best outcomes for people with disabilities in residential care are for those living independently. However, the quality of support is considered crucial to avoid creating “mini institutions”.

Experts say the numbers still living in institutions in Ireland are out of step with most western European countries which have been shutting institutions for the past 30 years.

Prof Jim Mansell, the author of a major report on the future of residential care commissioned by the UK government, said institutions by their very nature deny people with disabilities their basic rights.

“In the US and Britain at the end of the 1960s and 1970s there was scandal after scandal associated with institutional care, such as concerns on overcrowding, ill-treatment and abuse and neglect … But if you provide the right kind of care in the community, you can transform the quality of people’s lives,” he said.

In a statement last night, the HSE said it was committed to increasing the provision of community-based care for people with disabilities and has been moving in that direction for several years. It said about 4,000 people are already in such settings.

Following the publication of the report on congregated settings, it says it plans to work closely with the Department of Health to finalise plans to increase the numbers of people with disabilities cared for in a community setting.”

Disability experts also say a major change in the culture of residential care is needed where residents are given the opportunity to be involved in the community and in decisions affecting them. Dr Fintan Sheerin, a lecturer in intellectual disability nursing at Trinity College Dublin, said many services need to move on from the “medical model”, which operates on the basis that there is something wrong with disabled people that requires treatment.


5 Responses to “4,200 intellectually disabled ‘should be rehoused’”

  1. Raymond says:

    There’ll be NO Alzheimer, NO RISK OF ALZHEIMER, when the Truth is told, fiercely and loudly, EXPRESSED and not SUPPRESSED.

  2. Anne says:

    Oh Barry God bless Geraldine Dolan and all the others with no voice. My heart sank when I read that Barry.

    I honestly do not know how you, Paddy and everyone else keep fighting day in day out. My God someone up there is giving you the fierce mental/physical strength to keep going! and I think to myself what a bunch of ice cold hearted bastards!! have dragged everyone one of us victims through all this red tape/political bollocks, when we should have been resting are already fragile/damaged minds/bodies.

    I wish Ireland would wake their eyes.Open their hearts???…

    Barry, it’s a wonder you don’t get Alzheimers with the amount of mental stress your under..I think of you as David and Goliath !!!’s you against the “MOVEMENT” but you will have your day!

    Love to everyone who spends their precious days fighting so hard.


  3. Portia says:


    There is something very bizarre about these institutions.

    For one, you do not need to be intellectually disabled to be placed there by the HSE.

    In fact children deemed TOO INTELLIGENT are committed to these institutions for ECT.

    Let us now see the light of truth shine on what has really been going on in these institutions.

  4. Hanora Brennan says:

    There was scandal and outrage in one of our local ‘institutions’ when an inmate was found to have swallowed a rubber glove – twice! There’s service for you folks! And our erstwhile ‘Group Leaders’ want to establish a Trust fund so that we can access these services in our days of ‘crockery’? Pass the pillow and pills please!

  5. barry clifford phone: 0877511113 says:

    IRISH TIMES TO DAY: CASE STUDY: GERALDINE DOLAN: AFTER A lifetime in institutional care, life is beginning to change for Geraldine Dolan.

    She was just 16 years old when she arrived at St Peter’s. A grey institution at the end of a long driveway in Castlepollard, Co Westmeath, it was a mother-and-baby home until it was converted into a residential centre for people with disabilities almost half a century ago.

    Even then the building, with its open wards and draughty windows, was considered far from ideal.

    By the time Geraldine reached her mid-30s, health authorities were finally beginning to acknowledge it was time to close the main building and place patients in more appropriate, community-based care.

    “St Peter’s is neglected and rundown. The widows needed replacing, the showers needed to be overhauled. It just wasn’t suitable,” says her sister, Bernadette Dolan, a Dublin-based primary school teacher.

    “The place was understaffed. There weren’t really any services in evenings or at weekends. She was lucky to enough to have a day service at the local resource centre, but that was it.”

    Health authorities moved to purchase a number of bungalows. Residents would be relocated to these smaller, family-type settings and would have better access to activities to help them meet their full potential.

    That was 10 years ago. Geraldine, now in her mid-40s, has aged and stiffened significantly in the meantime. But it was only three months ago that she finally moved to a bungalow, following an intensive lobbying campaign by her sisters.

    The move from institutional care to a house in the community, which she shares with five others, has made a world of difference.

    “She’s been out bowling, swimming. They’re able to do the things they’re interested in. It’s normal living; what the rest of us take for granted,” says Bernadette.

    “Geraldine has her own room, and there’s a lovely sitting room and kitchen. There’s a nice back garden, too. It’s a family-type unit. And for those who are able, there’s a bit of extra independence. It’s the opposite to institutional living.”

    She was one of 17 residents who have been able to move to three houses in the community – but there are still about 50 residents still living in St Peter’s.

    Given the long battle to open these houses, and difficulties with the public finances, there is little sign that any others will be moving any time soon.

    “These houses opened because of public pressure,” says Bernadette.

    “Disabled people are at the back of the queue. They don’t have a voice. They’re forgotten about. They don’t belong to pressure group like trade unions. And they have no political clout – when you don’t have that, nothing happens quickly.”

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