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Incident where a child with physical and learning disabilities was slapped by a member of hospital staff while in respite care at Stewarts Hospital

In July 2008 the Ombudsman for Children became aware of a case in which a staff member of Stewarts Hospital had been dismissed on the grounds of gross misconduct for slapping a child with physical and intellectual disabilities in respite care, following an internal hospital inquiry. The incident in question occurred in July 2006 when a child in respite care in Stewarts Hospital was slapped by a member of staff. This incident resulted in an internal investigation following which the staff member was dismissed. This action was appealed by the staff member concerned to the Employment Appeals Tribunal and the Tribunal determined that the dismissal had been unfair and that the staff member should be reinstated as an employee of Stewarts Hospital.

The Ombudsman for Children may initiate an own volition investigation. On the basis of the information about this case put into the public domain, the Office contacted Stewarts Hospital in 2008 to undertake a preliminary examination into the matter. Given the importance of the issues raised by this incident a decision was taken to launch a full investigation into the administrative policies and procedures followed by Stewarts Hospital in relation to this incident. As this investigation progressed it became necessary to include the HSE, as the statutory body with responsibility for child protection, in the remit of the investigation.