Written answers

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Patrick Costello (Dublin South Central, Green Party)
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615. To ask the Minister for Health the status of the work his officials are carrying out on the national adult safeguarding policy for the health sector; when adult safeguarding and an independent advocacy service will be in place nationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11067/20]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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The safety and protection of all those who may be at risk of harm or abuse is an important priority for the Government.  In the health sector, a framework of standards, policies and procedures for the safeguarding of adults who may be at risk of abuse, harm and exploitation within the health sector is in place, and further measures are being developed to strengthen this framework.

The development of a new national policy on adult safeguarding in the health sector was approved by Government.  The development of policy in this area is a complex undertaking which involves consideration of a wide range of issues (including, as appropriate, advocacy issues in respect of the health and social care sector). 

This national sectoral policy will apply across the full spectrum of the Irish healthcare and social care sector including all public, voluntary and private health and social care services and settings and will include proposals on collaboration, information-sharing and referral arrangements between the health sector and other key sectors.

My Department is progressing this work.  Significant policy development work, including stakeholder engagement and detailed research, has been undertaken, although in common with other projects, there has been some degree of disruption arising from the Department’s and the wider health system’s lead role in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Notwithstanding this, it is hoped to circulate a draft policy for public consultation later this year with a view to submitting a final version of a policy to Government thereafter.  Following analysis and consideration of the feedback obtained through the consultation process the draft policy will be further developed and proposals on the policy will be submitted to Government thereafter. 

Evidence base and policy development has progressed well to date. For example:

- A high-level Steering Group was established to assist my Department in its development of the policy and has held 7 meetings to date, most recently, by tele-conference, on Friday 12 June. Updates and related papers such as discussion papers on the policy content are published regularly on my Department's website.

- Focus group consultation research was undertaken between November 2019 and March 2020 by the Institute of Public Health on my Department’s behalf, to ensure that the voices of the most directly affected service users are heard.  The Institute’s final report to the Department on the focus group research is scheduled for completion later this Summer. 

- A commissioned independent research evidence project to inform the policy is in the final stages of completion. 

Related major developments in relation to other adult safeguarding policy developments within the health and social care sector include:

- My approval in September 2019, and subsequent publication, of National Standards for Adult Safeguarding prepared and submitted to me jointly by HIQA and the Mental Health Commission.

- The anticipated finalisation of a major revision by the Health Service Executive of its national operational HSE adult safeguarding policy. 

These initiatives, together with the Department’s development of the national health sector policy and underpinning legislation, should ensure the continued evolution and improvement, within the Irish health and social care sector, of the safeguarding of adults who may be at risk of abuse and harm. 

A further significant initiative in relation to adult safeguarding (relevant to all sectors and Departments, including the health and social care sector and my Department) was the Law Reform Commission's commencement in June 2019 of a legal research project on "A Regulatory Framework for Adult Safeguarding", on foot of submissions from various bodies, including from my Department. I understand that this work is progressing having regard to a recent consultation process. 

I have previously emphasised the importance of developing a clear, coherent, carefully-considered and implementable policy framework as a basis for any required underpinning legislation.  The Department's approach therefore has been to undertake the required detailed policy and evidence base development work including appropriate research, public and stakeholder consultation and resource implications analyses.

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