Sunday 25 February 2018

Four boys abscond from Oberstown as union warns 'staff morale is on the floor'

Oberstown and Trinity House Campus, Lusk, Co. Dublin
Oberstown and Trinity House Campus, Lusk, Co. Dublin

Sam Griffin

Four detainees at the Oberstown juvenile facility for young offenders have escaped in the past week with morale at the campus "on the floor", according to the union representing staff there.

Gardaí were this weekend hunting for two boys who absconded from Oberstown last Tuesday. One of these is said to be a "violent" offender who previously attacked a female garda and had to be restrained using pepper spray.

Another two boys absconded from the facility, located in Lusk in north county Dublin, last Sunday.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs confirmed to the Irish Independent these two boys have since returned and are back in detention, while the other two boys remain on the loose.

"The location of the boys who absconded on May 19 remains an operational matter for an Garda Síochána. Oberstown management will, in line with procedure, continue to liaise with the garda authorities as required," a spokesperson said.

Oberstown management have now launched a review into how the boys managed to escape.

The review is being carried out with a view "to addressing any identified risks to the secure functioning of the Oberstown campus".

The incidents come as the Impact trade union, which represents the majority of staff at Oberstown, warned human resources were being severely stretched and staff were suffering with low morale.

"We are aware of a lot of issues and concerns among workers at the facility, with an increase in the number of incidents, including assaults, of particular concern," an Impact spokesperson said.

"We would have concerns for the health and safety of workers due to increasing demands.

A department spokeswoman said there is "a significant change programme being undertaken on the campus which will improve staff conditions".

She said this includes a capital investment programme of €56m to expand the capacity of the campus, improve security and replace buildings which had reached the end of their useful life.

She added that the first recruitment programme for new care staff was also underway and that management regularly consulted with staff on best practices.

In total, six boys have absconded from the Oberstown campus this year. In 2014, seven boys absconded but all were returned back to the facility.

Earlier this year a Hiqa report into care at the Oberstown campus found the centre "was not always safe" for children and that nine out of 10 areas assessed were not up to standard.

Irish Independent

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