Disabled in Londonderry care home were abused, review finds

Ralph's Close has been subjected to a "robust and thorough" investigation.
Ralph's Close has been subjected to a "robust and thorough" investigation.

Severely disabled residents in a Londonderry care home who could not speak suffered physical and psychological abuse, a review has found.

Some of those at the premises drew pictures in order to communicate, and needed wheelchairs to move around and constant assistance to cope with their learning problems.

Health Minister Edwin Poots

Health Minister Edwin Poots

An investigation was initiated following anonymous allegations about staff at Ralph’s Close.

Stormont Health Minister Edwin Poots said: “This highlights the challenges we face in protecting the most vulnerable people in our society, people who cannot always speak for themselves and who rely on others for their care.

“There is no room in the health and social care family for those who exploit their position of trust by inflicting suffering and harm or, indeed, standing by and ignoring others who do.”

Mr Poots said no concerns remain over standards of care and there had been a transformation in the treatment provided to residents over the past 18 months.

The accommodation is intended for those who formerly would have been confined to hospital wards for life; living in separate buildings, each with four residents.

Around 30 caring staff are employed at Ralph’s Close, plus caterers and porters.

The initial allegations of abuse were made in July 2012 and subject to investigations by the police and Western Health and Social Services Trust which organises care.

The PSNI concluded that without witness evidence it was unlikely the burden of proof required for prosecutions would be met.

But a safeguarding investigation by the health trust concluded that, on the balance of probabilities, abuse was perpetrated between September 2010 and July 2012.

Mr Poots said: “The nature and type of abuse includes physical and psychological abuse and neglect by omission. Over 50 per cent of allegations made have been substantiated and, on the basis of these findings, disciplinary proceedings are now progressing as well as investigations by the relevant regulatory bodies.”

A Trust spokesman said staff “continue to meet the families concerned and have apologised to them for any distress caused”.