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Whistleblowers sought amidst Derry care home concern

Northern Ireland Assembly health minister Edwin Poots has urged whistleblowers to come forward with information, following allegations of the abuse of adults with severe learning disabilities at a Derry care home.

Unexplained accidents and injuries to residents of Ralph’s Close residential care home in Derry, which houses 16 adult residents, are now at the centre of an investigation by The Western Trust and the Police Service Northern Ireland (PSNI). Northern Ireland’s health watchdog, the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA), has previously issued five ‘failure to comply’ notices to the trust regarding Ralph’s Close, two of which have now been complied with.

The Belfast Telegraph reported that one of the residents had been found with both their hands bandaged in what was described as a “restrictive practice”.

Commenting on the investigation, NIASW manager Carolyn Ewart, said: “We are extremely concerned by this investigation, and we support Edwin Poot’s request for staff who may have information to come forward. Social workers are bound by their professional code of ethics and their regulatory codes, requiring them to report possible abuse of any service user. “Adults with learning and communication difficulties are some of the most vulnerable people in our society, and those in a residential care setting can be even more reliant on staff to look after them with compassion and respect.

“Alleged cases such as these, like in the case of Winterbourne View in England, are extremely alarming to families who have a loved one living in a residential home, but it is also important to acknowledge that there are many more dedicated care staff and social workers who have excellent relationships with the people they look after.

“In Northern Ireland, there are robust procedures to ensure the safeguarding of adults and children, and the Northern Ireland Adult Safeguarding Partnership (NIASP) is currently working to review the arrangements for protecting vulnerable adults.

“We are reassured that the Police Service Northern Ireland (PSNI), Western Health and Social Care Trust, the RQIA and relevant government bodies are working together to investigate the allegations and protect service users from harm.”