The Irish Association of Social Workers welcomes and supports David Cullinane TD’s Private Member’s Motion on Nursing Homes, which calls for a public inquiry into the deaths and quality of care provided in nursing homes during the pandemic and a range of increased regulatory and safeguarding measures to support and protect nursing home residents from infringements of their rights and from abuse and neglect.
Chairperson of the IASW, Vivian Geiran said: ‘As the lead profession in adult safeguarding, The Irish Association of Social Workers have repeatedly advised Government that social workers cannot adequately support, or protect nursing home residents, who experience infringements of their rights, abuse or neglect in our current system. Safeguarding social workers do not even have legal right of entry to private nursing homes, where over 80% of residents live and we must negotiate access with owners, in order to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect. This is unacceptable in 2021, given our long historical experience of abuse in a range of Irish care settings. We urgently require adult safeguarding legislation, an independent safeguarding authority and mandatory reporting of abuse in nursing homes, all of which is outlined in this motion.’’
The IASW recognise that many nursing homes provide high standards of care. This however has not been a universal experience and the provision of good care in many nursing homes does not detract from the need to investigate the reports of unsafe and even abusive practices in other settings. A fully transparent public inquiry is urgently required to address the concerns of surviving residents and their families about the quality of care provided, particularly during the pandemic and to investigate the high mortality rates.
Nursing home residents were disproportionately impacted by Covid-19, and many have deteriorated as a result of the physical impact, or isolation from family and communities. IASW Expert on Adult Safeguarding, Dr Sarah Donnelly highlighted that: ‘Eleven months after the publication of the Expert Panel Report on Nursing Homes, which promised integration of nursing homes into our wider health and social care services, the majority of residents lack access to basic and essential primary care services, including physiotherapy, appropriate clinical nutrition, occupational therapy, social work and other key services. Access to health and social care services is a basic safeguard, one which Ireland is currently failing to deliver to many nursing home residents.’
It is clear that given widespread failures by nursing homes to fully implement the discretionary visiting guidance issued by Government, residents rights to see their family and friends must now be protected in law.
This Private Member’s motion calls for the same basic measures and safeguards for Irish nursing homes residents which are available to residents in other countries. It recognises that residents are citizens with the same rights to safety and protection in their life, as those of us who live in the wider community.
Vivian Geiran continues: ‘On 11th May 2020, Ireland signed the Statement of Support to the Un Secretary General’s Policy Brief on the impact of Covid-19 on Older Persons, recognising increased mistreatment, abuse and neglect of older people in nursing homes during Covid-19 and committing to fully promoting and respecting their dignity and rights. Despite this there is not a single reference to safeguarding contained in the 86 recommendations of the Expert Panel Report on Nursing Homes, nor has Government introduced any increased safeguarding measures in the sector. We call on all deputies to honour the commitment Ireland made and vote to support this motion.’ Vivian Geiran concludes: ‘Social workers are clear that in the absence of political action to improve safeguarding in nursing homes, people will continue to experience avoidable abuse and neglect. A vote for this motion, supports and protects residents and vitally, acknowledges them as equal citizens of our communities, with equal rights. We should accept nothing less for current residents and for our future older selves.’
Chair of IASW