SERVICE CLOSING CAUSES ‘CHAOS’
Staff shortage saw it close – and families fear it could happen again
TWENTY families in north Wicklow were left high and dry in recent days when the START day service in Bray, which accommodates adults with intellectual disabilities, closed temporarily with less than a day’s notice.
Relatives of clients at the service, which is managed by Sunbeam House Services, were notified on Wednesday afternoon last, that the service would be unable to continue for more than a week due to staff shortages.
The chairman of the board of directors confirmed to the Sunbeam House Services Family Advocacy Group by email that staff shortages were the reason for the sudden closure and that it was impossible to hire staff at such short notice.
Families say they are now concerned that a precedent has been set and that further sudden closures could happen at any time.
TWENTY families in North Wicklow were left high and dry in recent days when the START day service in Bray, which accommodates adults with intellectual disabilities, closed with less than a day’s notice.
Relatives of clients at the service, which is managed by Sunbeam House Services, were notified on Wednesday afternoon last, that the service would be unable to continue for the foreseeable future due to staff shortages.
‘I received a phonecall at 3.30 p.m. on Wednesday from the manager to say that there would be no day service for the rest of the week, for the following week and that the service would resume after the annual holidays on August 21,’ said a concerned parent.
‘ This has thrown us into chaos and for many, our children pick up on that chaos. It has had a knock on effect for many people who have commitments while their child is at the day service.’
In an emailed response to the Sunbeam House Services Family Advocacy Group, chairman of the Board of Directors Donal O’Brien apologised for the temporary closure.
‘We do not have the resources to have a fall back on contingency staffing on the scale that is necessary nor was it possible to hire in staff at such short notice. The decision to suspend the service was taken as the only available option in this case,’ Mr O’Brien’s email explained.
There is now fear amongst families that a precedent has been set and that further temporary closures at short notice could happen.
‘My biggest concern is that this is now a precedent and that, if there is a shortage of staff for any reason, that the response will be to just close the service. No alternative was given and there was no attempt made to find any solution to the staff shortage,’ the parent said.
The Sunbeam House Services Family Advocacy Group has outlined that this decision has left families ‘extremely distressed and concerned’ and that ‘ keeping their family member home has put service users and families under enormous pressure’.
Wicklow TD Pat Casey has called for ‘an immediate and emergency response’ from Sunbeam House Services and the HSE.
He said that the decision to shut START a day after the decision was made reflects a ‘complete failure to families by management and the HSE’.
‘Service users and their families have been left high and dry with no contingency plan in place as of yet,’ said Deputy Casey.
He said that the sudden closure was ‘ the worst possible outcome for these hard pressed people who require a day service’.
Deputy Casey insisted that all 20 affected families should be contacted immediately regarding arrangements for a day service for their loved ones.
‘ These service users need routine in their care plan and this closure and the way it has been announced is a total disgrace that warrants investigation,’ he said.
Meanwhile, an Arklow-based member of the Family Advocacy Group said that a similar closure took place in the south Wicklow town last year which, families were informed at the time, was due to a lack of financial resources.
‘I was grateful when the families got together and formed the SHS Advocacy Group; that group gives a united voice for all the parents and only for that group parents in Arklow would be not be aware of the difficulties currently happening in Bray. Similar happened in Arklow last August/ September. There are excellent staff but they need funds and materials to do the job. The HSE needs to hold the service providers being provided with public funds more accountable,’ the member said.
The HSE and Sunbeam House Services had yet to respond to a request for comment at the time of going to press.