Like most evenings, I watched the Six-One news earlier tonight. (For those of you outside Ireland, this is the main evening news programme on our main channel) I am often angered, enraged, upset or saddened by what I see on the news. Equally I am often cheered, amused and intrigued. But tonight’s programme left me feeling depressed and hopeless.
Tonight’s lead story was a report on HIQA inspections of Aras Attracta and St. Peter’s, both residential units for adults with intellectual disabilities. The findings of these inspections are beyond shocking. At St. Peter’s there was ‘major non-compliance with regulations’ and incidents including unexplained bruising on a resident, nutritional needs of residents not being met, access to fire exits, safety issues, weak governance and management…… I could go on. You can read the report for yourself: https://static.rasset.ie/documents/news/4904-10-december-2014.pdf
At Aras Attracta which had been the subject of a truly shocking documentary in December 2014, an unannounced inspection in January found a number of causes for serious concern, also including some points of major non-compliance. This report can be seen here https://static.rasset.ie/documents/news/4910-14-january-2015.pdf
This was hard enough to watch and hear, but two later stories in the programme affected me too. Parents of children with special needs in parts of Dublin are having to campaign about inadequate provision of respite services owing to changes in facilities and the non-opening of another facility. Parenting a child with special needs is hard bloody work without having to fight for the little bit of respite that should be available. This report was followed by the awful story of what I can only describe as a disability hate crime, where a teenage boy who has autism was attacked by a group of other teenagers who forced twigs into his mouth and forced him to expose himself. The attack (I will not call it an ‘incident’) was filmed and uploaded to social media. There are no words to adequately express my disgust at this.
Now, any one of these reports is terrible to hear – I suppose we should be at least thankful they are reported at all – but to have three reports on our main national news all of which show that people with disabilities 1. do not get the services they need, 2. are all too often using services and receiving levels of so-called care that do not meet their needs and do not allow them dignity, and 3. are the target of hate crime leaves me sickened to my very core. This is the country our daughter – who has physical and intellectual disabilities – is growing up in. On days like this I am terrified for her future. Since she was born we have done everything in our power to develop and encourage her independence. All I want to do tonight after watching the news is hold her tight, keep her with me and never let her go.