Tuesday 21 November 2017

Children's residential service 'not fit for purpose'

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Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

A children’s residential centre run by Tusla has been deemed “unfit for purpose” by inspectors.

The inspection of the centre in the south of the country last May found that out of ten standards only one was met, the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) revealed.

One standard relating to management and staffing was judged by inspectors to be majorly non-compliant.

There were 118 episodes of children “missing from care.”

In 25 cases children were absent and seven times this amount to “absent at risk.”

Children’s basic care and healthcare needs were being met, every child had an allocated social worker and children’s rights were being actively promoted.

However, not all children’s emotional needs were consistently met and some children continued to engage in anti-social and risk-taking behaviours.

At the time of the inspection, a strategic review of the service was underway and the campus remained closed to new admissions. Improvements since the last inspection in December 2016 were noted. However, progress was slow in other areas.

The institutional layout and feel of the service remained unchanged since the last inspection. Large numbers of people accessed the campus on the days of inspection and it was not always possible to differentiate between Tusla staff and members of the public.

Furthermore, Tusla staff from another service were seen to walk in front of children’s living areas in contravention of direct orders, which impacted negatively on children’s privacy.

A number of management systems, including risk management and monitoring and oversight remained poor.

Accountability arrangements were also insufficient. Tusla had committed to a plan to monitor the campus with a view to improving the service; however, the oversight group tasked with overseeing the implementation of change was ineffectual.

In response today Tusla said the service has been actively working over the past year to further develop and enhance services for children and young people through an oversight group which has completed its work.

Additionally a service development oversight group has been established by the Chief Operations Officer. The first meeting of the group took place in August and the group will continue to meet monthly for an initial six month period, to ensure relevant expertise is made available to complete the reconfiguration and quality of service.

“Regrettably there are a number of areas that haven’t progressed as quickly as scheduled. While the service continues to face challenges, the inspection report showed examples of very positive practice,” said spokeswoman.

Donal McCormack, National Service Director, Children’s Residential Services, Tusla said: “HIQA inspections are an important measurement and oversight tool for us. Children’s residential services aim to provide a physically, emotionally and psychologically appropriate space in which children and young people can heal, develop and move forward in their lives.

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