I commend Senator Kelleher on introducing this Bill and all those who have supported it. I wholeheartedly welcome this legislation because we all know that some of the most heinous crimes committed in this country target the vulnerable. I believe this legislation tackles the abuse of vulnerable adults and will lead to equality of treatment of all people.
Abuse of the vulnerable can take many forms. It can be sexual as in the Grace and Mary cases. It can be neglect. It can be physical and psychological abuse in the case of the Áras Attracta scandal. A society should be judged on how it treats its most vulnerable, and all safeguards must be implemented to ensure the proper treatment of vulnerable adults. Some vulnerable adults may not even be aware of their abuse. I believe that special education programmes could be made available to vulnerable adults so that they understand when they are being abused and have the language and opportunity to report this. The exploitation of the elderly by unscrupulous people in getting them to withdraw cash to pay for unnecessary property repairs and renovations is another example of vulnerable adults being abused. Bank employees could be educated to recognise this type of exploitation and to ensure any large cash withdrawals for this type of work are replaced by bank drafts payable to the contractor. With all the questions that have recently come to light about the integrity of the Garda Síochána and its inaccurate reporting of issues, I think it is necessary to examine the practice of Garda questioning of vulnerable adults. The appointment of an independent advocate should address this issue.
I see the need for this legislation on a weekly basis through my work with the RISE Foundation. We offer support for family members impacted by the alcohol and drug misuse of a loved one. Family members who have a loved one in addiction often struggle with shame, stress and anxiety. They are terrified to ask for help because of the risk of being judged by society, especially when they are living under the threat of violence from drug gangs because of drug debts accumulated by their loved ones. Recently, I worked with two elderly women whose sons were in addiction, both living in rural communities. One of them who lives in an isolated area on her own had extremely threatening drug dealers call to her house. She was terrified. Another incident involved one woman having a photograph of her six year old grandchild sent to her with a note asking for huge amounts of money that she did not have. She ended up going to the credit union but still lives in fear. I believe these vulnerable women will benefit from the support available through this legislation.
Vulnerability can occur at many times in an adult's life and can be as a result of health, financial or other difficulties. When people are in this state, they are often easy targets for exploitation. People with health difficulties can be forced by family members or others to sign over property or assets against their will. This Bill will protect these vulnerable people. People who find themselves in financial difficulties can often be preyed upon by people who can exploit their weaknesses and get them to sign up to high interest loans. These people need to know their rights.
Some elderly people have to end their days in nursing homes when their families are unable to give them the care they require. This is a very difficult decision for any family. This Bill will safeguard the rights of these vulnerable adults to be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve and will also give peace of mind to the family who can have confidence that the homes are properly monitored.Another group of people in society who are vulnerable is that comprising adults with intellectual disabilities. The recent case of a young woman being left in foster care despite allegations of sexual abuse highlights the gaps in services in our country and I am of the view that the introduction of this legislation will go a long way to address these.
I welcome the legislation. I commend Senator Kelleher and all involved for the great work they have done.