A new report by the Health Information and Quality Authority has found that many residents with disabilities who are living in congregated settings, experience a poor quality of life compared to those who live in community settings.

Inspections of 1,268 centres last year found that residents in congregated settings were often separated from their local communities and continued to live in unsuitable outdated accommodation.

The report also outlines concerns over poor findings in relation to governance and management in a number of settings.

However, HIQA says inspectors found there was increased compliance in key areas, such as protection and social care across centres since 2018.

HIQA is responsible for the registration and inspection of 'designated centres' for people with disabilities.

Centres range in size from single occupancy up to large congregated institutional settings.

For over ten years, there have been efforts to move people with disabilities from congregational settings to community living.

This has proved difficult due adequate funding and the housing crisis.

There are residents in congregated settings who are frustrated by the length of time they have been waiting to move into the community.

However, for other residents, the suggestion of moving into the community fuels anxiety according to some disability representatives.

Some people who have spent most of their adult lives in congregated settings.

The latest HIQA report compares the two types of settings and there's no doubt, those in the community fare better.

HIQA inspectors visited 1,268 centres last year, 70% of those visits were unannounced.

In well-managed centres, residents told inspectors how they liked to spend their time and about the activities or people that were particularly important to them.

The list of hobbies and interests in these settings were many and varied.

However, in some congregated settings the residents' day was primarily focused on campus-based activities which HIQA reports were further limited by staff shortages.

Issues around the impact of poor governance and staff shortages are peppered throughout the report. 

In some cases, providers did not have a clear picture about what was happening in their services and were routinely failing to adequately identify deficiencies in the quality and safety of their services.

Inspectors found that residents in 20% of settings continued to be at risk of abuse due to non-compliance with the basic requirements of safeguarding.

They report that providers' governance arrangements in many of these centres failed to make sure that allegations of harm were being reported and investigated to a satisfactory level.

In some cases, staff failed to recognise safeguarding incidents due to their frequency, suggesting that the culture of the centre was used to or had a higher tolerance for such events. 

The report also says that in the centres where safeguarding concerns had been reported, inspectors found that management had not ensured that effective plans had been put in place to mitigate events.

Last year was the first full year of inspections since the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities came into force here in April 2018.

The purpose of the convention is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.

As citizens, people with disabilities who live in designated centres have the same rights as others in society to live the life they choose and access the resources they require to do that.

Residents who moved to smaller community homes, consistently told HIQA inspectors that they were happier and had a better quality of life compared to when they lived in campus or congregated settings.

The authority says more work is needed to ensure that the one in three people living in congregated or campus-based settings more work is needed to ensure that they are supported to move into smaller homes in the community.

 "This is in order to promote personal freedoms and control over their own lives that they are entitled to", it says.

Inclusion Ireland seeks more funding for community homes

Inclusion Ireland - the national association for people with an intellectual disability - has expressed concern at the findings.

The organisation said it is not the first time that HIQA has found poor quality of life "imposed on thousands of people with disabilities" living in congregated settings.

Its chief executive Enda Egan called on the Government to accelerate the deinstitutionalisation of people from congregated settings to homes in the community.

Inclusion Ireland said additional funding needs to be made available to the Department of Housing for "physical houses".

The association said this will enable people with intellectual disabilities to enjoy living "an ordinary life" in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.