Wednesday 20 September 2017

Detention facility not always safe for children

Minister for Children Dr James Reilly. Photo: Collins
Minister for Children Dr James Reilly. Photo: Collins

Sam Griffin

A damning report into care at the national children's detention facility has found the centre "was not always safe" for children and that nine out of 10 areas assessed were not up to standard.

The announced inspection of the Oberstown centre in Lusk by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) identified "significant risks" in a range of areas. It has issued an immediate action plan to rectify the shortcomings.

Inspectors were highly critical of one instance where staff tried to handcuff a child.

One staff member was injured in the incident, which the inspector described as "all over the place" after viewing CCTV footage.

The report was also critical of the practice of single separation of children, with one child "locked into a room" for more than 83 hours over a four-day period, including sleeping hours. It added that staff had reported separating children on occasions due to low staffing levels. "This was not acceptable practice and was an infringement of children's rights," the report states.

"Staff did not consistently record whether they had used other behaviour management techniques prior to the use of separation."

The inspection - conducted over a three-day period in October and November of last year - also found mandatory training had not been given to all staff. Children's rights group last night said this needed to be addressed urgently.

"The HIQA report suggests there is an overuse of single separation because staff are struggling with some children," Children's Rights Alliance chief executive Tanya Ward said.

Other shortcomings HIQA found included a lack of "meaningful consultation" with children about their rights and the lack of a "robust" complaints procedure for detainees.

The report showed that 25pc of staff had no fire training and there were only two fire marshals, when 25-30 were required.

Elsewhere nine out of 10 staff members were without up-to-date first aid training or manual handling training and almost the same number were without up-to-date child protection and safeguarding training. One child went three days without prescribed medication.

The facility, which caters for young offenders aged 10-17, is undergoing a €50m upgrade.

A spokesperson for Children's Minister James Reilly said the issues raised in the report were "a matter of concern for all children in detention".

"The Minister welcomes the very comprehensive action plan which has been agreed," he added.

Irish Independent

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