Ralphs Close allegations “alarming” - Foyle MLA

editorial image

A Derry MLA says she believes a widespread and thorough review of all residential care in the Western Trust area and right across the North “must happen” if allegations surrounding the treatment of vulnerable young adults at the Ralphs Close facility in Gransha are confirmed.

Sinn Fein’s Maeve McLaughlin, a member of the Stormont Health Committee, says an urgent and deep investigation would be vital in order to prevent and expose alleged mistreatment happening elsewhere.

“If it’s happening here, it could be happening elsewhere and it is totally unacceptable,” Ms. McLaughlin said.

“The allegations we’ve heard about are alarming and while I hope they are unfounded, if they are not I am calling for a widespread root and branch investigation of residential care.”

Ms. McLaughlin’s comments came after it emerged the Ralphs Close centre, opened earlier this year by Health Minister Edwin Poots, had been the subject of inspection by the health watchdog RQIA because of a number of unexplained accidents and injuries.

The PSNI is now investigating “mistreatment” claims and a number of staff at the care unit have been suspended as a precautionary measure.

Dermot O’Hara, founder of Derry based charity Destined, which works with vulnerable young adults, said if the allegations which have surfaced in recent days are true, there must be immediate repercussions.

“In this situation we are talking about the most vulnerable of vulnerable young people and if this abuse happened those involved should suffer the consequences.

“If it transpires that the correct policies and procedures were not in place to prevent it happening, there needs to be a full review of residential care.”

Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan said: “It is vital that anybody with any information that could assist the police in their investigation comes forward so that justice can be done and that the families of patients can hopefully get some peace of mind.

“It is equally important that innocent staff do not have a cloud over them. I am reassured following my meeting with the Trust that they have reacted properly to these allegations.

“I would much rather be talking about the actions of the Trust today than condemning their inaction if these allegations were only to come to light in the future,” Mr. Durkan added.