Pilgrim House Community, a religious charity that has been described as “cult-like”, is to close after inspections by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) criticised its standards.
The centre, which cares for intellectually disabled people, has told the HSE, which has given it more than €1m since 2010, that it is closing down because the “regulatory framework is no longer compatible with our voluntary ethos.”Sunday Times pdf:
The registered charity has come to public attention over the past 15 years, including an incident when members were prevented
from entering Israel at the turn of the millennium after being mistaken by officials for a doomsday cult.
In 2004 some members were interviewed by gardai after distributing leaflets outside a church warning about incest and sexual abuse. Members deny that the organisation is a cult.
In 2008 the group took out a half-page advertisement in a national newspaper to apologise to a former member for their “dishonesty” and failing to live up to “the spiritual principles on which Pilgrim House was built.”
Bridget Anne Ryan, a director of the company, which has a care facility in Swords, Co Dublin, said the group had formally notified the HSE and Hiqa of its decision to close last month. “Since then we have worked closely with the HSE to identify an appropriate alternative care setting for the people we live with,” she said. “We are currently in this period of transition and we envisage it will take a number of months to complete.” Inspections by Hiqa between June 2014 and last month raised questions about several practices at the facility, where staff and five residents live together. The HSE committed €180,000 in funding to the centre in 2015, with €40,000 paid to date. While “good practice was found in relation to meeting the social care” of residents, there was extensive criticism of how the facility was run. Residents had no bank accounts and no access to their own money, or records of how it was being spent. The centre was found to be clean but “not particularly homely”. Residents had little say in the running of the centre and there was no garda vetting for carers. Inspectors also noted that residents had been taken to Israel, Belgium and Poland for up to a year without consultation with the HSE. Ryan, whose husband, Benedict Hogan, is a director, said the community had made “significant progress in the past seven months in complying with a changing regulatory framework.”
She noted it had 17 issues of major non-compliance in its first inspection in June last year, but that it had reached full compliance on 12 out of 18 outcomes in its most recent inspection.
Among the improvements noted by Hiqa were providing access to
psychological assessments and increased access to “the wider community.” Ryan said: “Latterly Hiqa, too, has found our
provision of care to be satisfactory. “Sadly, we have come to
recognise that the centrality of volunteering in the life of
Pilgrim House is not really compatible with the constantly developing statutory requirements, and for this reason we have
decided to close.”
Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) Reports