REPORTS of beatings and abuse at the Ayios Stefanos home for mentally handicapped people are under investigation, but are almost certainly exaggerated, according to the welfare office.
In the past two days, reports suggest that serious charges have been made against the Limassol foundation, including reports of employees severely beating inmates and torturing children.
“We have to be very careful how we define violence,” an official at the social welfare services said. “Sometimes there are arguments which can be mistaken for violence. Of course we take the proper steps and investigate, and we have advised them (the foundation) to go to the police. We have to wait and see what the police will find but for now the foundation seems to be functioning properly.”
The official added that though the foundation is an NGO, it has the financial support of the government and is regularly inspected.
“We are in full cooperation with the social services in order to proceed with the investigation,” foundation chairman Socrates Socratous told the Cyprus Mail, “as we would like ourselves to have a proper investigation. We don’t accept these allegations, they are even slanderous. Of course we have incidents, all institutions have them, but we also have reports and take all the proper steps according to the severity of the incident.”
“We have 11 people on the board of directors,” he added, “and some have family at Ayios Stefanos. Do you think they would ignore that?”
“The foundation has a difficult job with disabled persons who at times display undesirable behaviour, aggression and self-destructive behaviour,” the foundation said in a statement, adding “the work of the personnel is very difficult.”
They also refer to the fact that some of the claims refer to incidents which happened in the past. “A long time ago, there were some incidences where employees showed improper behaviour. In each case the management didn’t hesitate and took the appropriate steps.”
Ayios Stefanos was founded in 1960. In 1993 it acquired its own premises which can host 120 mentally retarded people.