Belfast Telegraph

Watchdog's comments on sexual abuse in care homes criticised

By Lisa Smyth

The head of Northern Ireland's health watchdog has been criticised over comments about sexual abuse in care homes here.

It comes after the chief executive of the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority said she would prefer to describe resident on resident sex abuse as "disinhibited behaviour".

Olive Macleod was defending the RQIA after it was criticised in a damning report for its response to neglect and abuse at Dunmurry Manor.

Last month the Commissioner for Older People in Northern Ireland published the findings of his 16-month investigation into conditions at the facility, in which he revealed "a horrific catalogue of inhuman and degrading treatment". In his report Eddie Lynch criticised the RQIA for failing to take sufficient action to protect the safety of residents at the home.

However, Ms Macleod has expressed disappointment at how Mr Lynch conducted his investigation, which she claimed ignored evidence provided by the RQIA.

Speaking to the BBC, she said: "My team and I were interviewed for around 26 hours.

"We provided many arch lever files of information.

"The commissioner has chosen to interpret that information in a specific way.

"When I challenged that, it just wasn't accepted.

"What was reported to us was disinhibited sexual behaviour by both male and female patients and that behaviour can be a symptom of distress that you see in people with dementia.

"It was reported to the safeguarding board and it was managed.

"There was one particular patient that was very challenging in there. I don't believe there was any sexual predator in that home.

"It was very distressing for those families, particularly the females who were subjected to it, but is also a common feature in homes."

However, Julieann McNally, whose grandmother lived at Dunmurry Manor for a number of months in 2016, hit out at Ms Macleod's comments.

"Olive Macleod still hasn't apologised or met with the families of the residents who were affected," she said.

"The Department of Health has agreed to meet with us, and while we have requested a meeting with the RQIA, we haven't had a response from them yet.

"To make matters worse, she is doing interviews saying the RQIA hasn't done anything wrong and that the sexual assaults referred to by Mr Lynch were disinhibited behaviour.

"No one is saying that the people who carried out these assaults were predators, what we are saying is that these were vulnerable people who weren't being looked after properly and so these assaults happened as a result.

"We're saying that the situation wasn't managed by the home and the RQIA didn't do enough to ensure the safety of the residents.

"My grandmother had dementia and her behaviour changed, but to say that these assaults were just disinhibited behaviour makes it sounds as though it is something that we should expect for our loved ones when they are in a care home."

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