Staff suspended after maltreatment allegations at home for vulnerable adults

A NUMBER of staff at a care home for vulnerable adults in Londonderry have been suspended by the Western Trust as a precautionary measure after the health authority was made aware of allegations of maltreatment, the Sentinel can reveal.

Thursday, 6th September 2012, 5:36 pm

Trevor Millar, Director of Adult Mental Health and Disability Services, at the Western Trust, revealed on Thursday (September 6) that he had received a number of allegations of maltreatment of residents of the state-of-the-art Ralphs Close facility for adults with learning difficulties at the rear of the Gransha complex.

Mr Millar said there was an active investigation of the allegations and that both the Trust and the PSNI are appealing for information from anyone who can help them with their inquiries.

Whilst stressing it was not possible to provide details of the number of alleged victims, the nature of the allegations or the number of suspended staff, in order not to prejudice the ongoing investigation, Mr Millar said: “We treat all allegations very seriously.”

He also stated that: “A robust safeguarding process has been ongoing from when we first became aware of the allegations.”

Aidan Gordon, Western Trust Assistant Director of Adult Safeguarding, said that alongside the PSNI investigation the matter has been handled in line with the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety’s (DHSSPS) regional policy.

Mr Millar said he could not give any details of when the maltreatment was alleged to have taken place but it must have happened within the past two years as Ralphs Close was built in 2010 and has only been operating for approximately 18 months.

It provides purpose built accommodation for 16 Western Trust patients who previously lived in Mourne House, Stradreagh Hospital.

“As an organisation we want to provide the highest quality care to these patients,” said Mr Millar.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Western Trust Out of Hours Social Work telephone number: 02871345171; or the Western Trust Adult Safeguarding Service, which operates Monday to Friday - 9am to 5pm: 02871611366.

The PSNI has also asked anyone who can help the with their investigation to contact detectives on 08456008000.

The award winning Ralphs Close facility was officially launched by Health Minister Edwin Poots and Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland as recently as March.

At the launch Mr McCausland said: “This is a magnificent scheme, a world away from the institutional setting that went before. Schemes like this make a huge difference to the daily lives of some of our most vulnerable people.

“They are a continuation of many years of inter-departmental working to shift away from long stay hospital accommodation to supported living in the community. Ralphs Close provides opportunities for residents to have a more independent lifestyle while still benefitting from continual care and support of dedicated staff.”

Mr Poots added: “This facility is an excellent example of what can be achieved when we work together for the good of our clients. In this case the Western Trust, Trinity Housing Association and the two Departments have combined their resources to allow these residents to live in beautiful surroundings which they can now call their own home.”