THE Anglican nun who founded the world’s first children’s hospice has been told not to return to it, after an independent risk assessment carried out in the wake of historic abuse allegations.
Sister Frances Dominica ASSP has been told not to return to Helen & Douglas House, in Oxfordshire, to avoid “non-compliance with our healthcare regulator”, a statement from the trustees said last week.
She has “wholly” denied claims that two women were abused between 1980 and 2000. After a police investigation, no charges were brought by the Crown Prosecution Service, owing to “insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction”. The allegations do not involve the Hospice at all.
The trustees’ statement reads: “We recognise that without Sister Frances’ vision and dedication, Helen & Douglas House would not exist and that is why we have been working tirelessly to resolve the matter with due consideration for Sister Frances’ name and reputation and with absolute focus on preserving the vital work we do in the community.
“We, too, are saddened by the circumstances and understand the situation is deeply distressing for Sister Frances. However, we have to comply with requirements of the Care Quality Commission and adhere to their safeguarding standards when considering the future management of the hospice.”
A risk assessment commissioned jointly with the trustees of the Order was carried out earlier this year by an independent third party and facilitated by the C of E.
“Notwithstanding that no conclusions about the allegations could be made, the Trustees’ decision to ask Sister Frances not to return to the hospice is precisely in line with the risk assessment’s recommendations,” the statement said.
The Oxford Mail reported on Tuesday that Sister Frances had been “flooded with messages of support”. Her lawyer, Lee Fisher, told the newspaper last Friday that “the position she has taken is not to return today and that position is still under consideration. In terms of the allegations made, they are wholly refuted.”
On Monday, a statement from React, which supports families of terminally ill children, expressed its “full support” for Sister Frances, who will remain its patron. She had been “open and clear” about the allegations, it said, and “strenuously denied” them. “We have found absolutely no reason to exclude Sister Frances from React’s activities and fully accept, and have complete faith in the CPS decision.
“We are proud to have Sister Frances as our patron and know that she will continue to bring great comfort into the lives of so many. The Board of React will continue to support her and her work with terminally ill children.”
Sister Frances, who is 72, trained as a nurse before joining the All Saints’ Sisters of the Poor. She became the Mother Superior of All Saints’ Convent in Cowley, Oxford, and founded Helen House hospice on its grounds in 1982, naming it after Helen Worswick, a two-year-old with a brain tumour. Douglas House, which cares for young adults, was opened in 2004. She was appointed OBE in 2006.