Call for isolation guidelines


HEALTH AUTHORITIES have been told to urgently draw-up guidelines over the isolation of children in special care units after social services found a teenager who was confined to a locked section of a care home for vulnerable teenagers.

In an inspection of Ballydowd special care unit last June, inspectors from the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) were told that a young person had being kept apart from other teenagers for the previous two months due to challenging behaviour.

This latest report follows a previous Hiqa inspection of Ballydowd last March, in which inspectors expressed alarm that the Health Service Executive had left another vulnerable child separated “almost continually” for six months.

The HSE defended the move at the time, insisting that official guidelines for the care of the child – who had “complex behaviour” – were being followed.

The most recent inspection report, published earlier this week, states that another child was residing in a secure section of the unit with access to a bedroom with en-suite facilities and a small sitting room with two staff members.

The young person was being educated alone, although the report states staff were making efforts to integrate the child regularly with other children in the unit, based on risk assessments.

Managers, staff and professionals told inspectors that the arrangement was based on a recent forensic psychology assessment. They said the child was cared for in a “single occupancy” arrangement, rather than “single separation”.

The latter form of care – covered by national guidelines – is used to isolate seriously disruptive young people for as short a period of time as possible. Guidelines state that it is an extreme step which should only be used as measure of last resort.

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