Belfast Telegraph

Horror storey's

By Joe Oliver

A top level report into the notorious Lee Hestia hostel in Belfast concluded that it was failing to meet even "minimum requirements" of service.

A top level report into the notorious Lee Hestia hostel in Belfast concluded that it was failing to meet even "minimum requirements" of service.

It also found that, because of inadequate training, staff were unable to identify incidents of abuse, while some rooms in the seven-storey building represented a health and safety risk to occupants.

The damning report - obtained by Sunday Life under a Freedom of Information application - made a series of sweeping recommendations.

But, in June of last year, the Lee Hestia board, Novas Ouvertures, decided to withdraw as the management agent for all of its services in Northern Ireland and the hostel was closed down.

The report into the 'wet' Brunswick Street-based facility was part of a wide-ranging review carried out by the Housing Executive, which provided funding for male and female residents.

It was completed in October 2004 and followed the savage, booze-fuelled killing of former Royal Irish Ranger Eric Atkinson in the hostel seven months earlier.

And the scathing report comes in the wake of recent claims of sexual and physical abuse by two former residents of Lee Hestia.

The report made it clear that support provided to residents was "basic and is not consistent with the service's aims and objectives".

It also noted:

? Staffing structures were "clearly insufficient" to address the complex needs of up to 48 residents, and;

? Case files and assessments showed no evidence that any significant work was carried out to connect with other services or improve life skills for independent living.

Another "major weakness" was the failure to record health and safety checks, and records about abuse complaints were "minimal, with little evidence of investigations being carried out or attempts made to minimise any apparent risk to service users or staff.

In one case file, the executive review team found that a 51-year-old man - referred to Lee Hestia indicating "mild difficulties with alcohol" - had raised concerns "that his levels of alcohol consumption has increased due to being in the hostel".

Another case example revealed there was no record to show that a report of physical abuse by one resident on another had been reported to the police or social services.

The issue of health and safety was a standing item on the agenda of residents, but no records were provided "which confirmed that individual concerns raised during these meetings were actioned".

The report states: "The Brunswick Street hostel is a high cost scheme relative to the quality and limited range of services provided, and as such does not provide a value for money service."

It added that a draft improvement plan addressing the "systematic failings of the service" should be provided within 28 days and would determine future continuation of Housing Executive support funding.

Belfast Telegraph


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