The TD said that the pandemic has increased isolation and therefore increased the levels of oversight from the watchful eye of family and friends.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health David Cullinane has said that the HSE National Safeguarding Office's reporting of a decline in reports of neglect and abuse in 2020 underlines the need for a new approach in safeguarding.
The TD said that the pandemic has increased isolation and therefore increased the levels of oversight from the watchful eye of family and friends adding that more needs to be done to resourcing safeguarding teams to conduct wider engagement and outreach.
Mr. Cullinane called on the Government to expedite adult safeguarding legislation in line with the Sinn Féin Dáil motion in July which was not opposed by Government and Sinn Féin's policy published over the summer Quality Care for All.
"The HSE Safeguarding Office's Annual Report underlines the need for adult Safeguarding legislation and major reform in this area.
"Social workers have concerns that actual abuse and neglect did not decrease during the pandemic, and I share these concerns. However, due to lockdowns, the watchful eye of family and friends was absent for much of 2020 as we know.
The TD reiterated the urgent need for adult safeguarding legislation in order to underpin a new approach and put in place a fully resourced plan to but safeguarding teams in position to be more proactive and engage in greater outreach.
Shocking that between the years 2016-2020, there have been in excess of 51,000 concerns notified to the Safeguarding Teams of the HSE according to its latest report. Many more concerns & instances of abuse go unreported & with some in care as we know suffering in silence.— David Cullinane T.D. (@davidcullinane) October 29, 2021
He also pushed the need for mandatory reporting of suspected abuse and/or neglect to an independent safeguarding authority, calling for a system of accountablity and sanctions at an organisational level where failures to meet standards and regulations has led to such instances of abuse to be implemented.
"The Dáil motion passed in July was not opposed by Government, which acknowledged the problems in this area. There needs to be a strategic plan for reaching out to those in care and a legal right of entry for safeguarding teams, they should not need the permission of nursing homes where potential abuse is occuring before they can investigate.
"As we saw in Ard Greíne in Donegal, there are many people in care who are suffering in silence even where concerns have been raised with management.
"This shows the clear need for an independent safeguarding authority which can oversee, monitor, and implement adult safeguarding.
The TD continued by highlighting the need to bring a new voice and perspective to policy development in the Department of Health through a Chief health and Social Care Professional, similar to the CMO, which he believes would bring the expertise of such disciplines to a senior level.
"If we want to root out abuse and neglect, we need serious legislation supported by proper resourcing to bring coherence to safeguarding and empower teams to conduct outreach work and any investigations they see fit," he concluded.
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