Additional juvenile beds available in 'very near future', Minister for Children says

Frances Fitzgerald responds after judge seeks explanation on lack of detention beds

Fri, May 10, 2013, 16:37

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said eight beds in a detention centre for children will be available for use “in the very near future”.

She was speaking after Ms Justice Ann Ryan summoned Minister Frances Fitzgerald or someone from her office to attend court today to explain why there was no place of detention for a teenage boy.

Ms Justice Ryan raised concerns last month after a was unable to detain the boy, who is facing serious allegations including heroin dealing, because there were no bed spaces available to accommodate him.

Ms Justice Ryan said there were problems for juvenile courts around the country when they needed to detain a young person. She said she had learned that there was an eight-bed unit in one of the centres available but it was not being used “due to staffing problems”.

She also said the Minister had earlier assured her that “matters would be dealt with and nothing has been dealt with, this has been going on for over two months”.

A representative of the Minister did appear at the court today. Speaking afterwards, She said staff at the three units in Oberstown - Trinity House School, Oberstown Boys School and Oberstown Girls School - had agreed earlier this year to rotate between them, which freed up beds. Rostering arrangements were now being reviewed, the Minister said, and she hoped with the support of staff and robust management the eight beds could be used as an extra resource.

Ms Fitzgerald told RTÉ Radio One at lunchtime there was a very high turnover and beds became available on a daily basis. She also said there was a much greater demand on beds at present.

“Decisions are being taken by the courts to refer more children for detention just right now for whatever reason,” she said. “We have allowed for 35 beds; clearly now there is more demand.”

The Minister also said the building of a new centre to add an additional 30 beds to the system, would begin in July. “We regard it as a top priority.”

Last year, Ms Fitzgerald ordered that children under 16 should no longer be sent to St Patrick’s Institution. That decision followed widespread criticism of the detention of children in the institution alongside adults.