Inspectors reveal 'serious concern' over children's care centre

Mon, Jul 2, 2012, 01:00

A HEALTH Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) report has identified “serious concerns” over the care being given to children living in a “shabby” Health Service Executive-operated residential centre.

In a highly critical report, authority inspectors noted that the children were living in a bungalow where the heating system was broken. There was significant damage to the home, including holes in the walls, broken chairs and cupboard doors.

The authority’s inspection of the unnamed home, in the HSE South area, located on the outskirts of a small town took place over two days in April.

Last night Barnardos’ chief executive Fergus Finlay said: “This report demonstrates yet again the need for reform of child welfare and protection services.”

He added that “it is essential that the HSE respond to Hiqa’s inspection report by improving the care provided in this centre as a matter of urgency”.

The inspectors discovered that the teenagers, two aged 15 and one 14 – who had attended school intermittently before being admitted to the centre – were no longer going to school and had not attended in the previous eight months.

“All young people have a right to education. Inspectors found the situation to be wholly unacceptable. The HSE has made little progress on this matter, resulting in these children being out of education for over eight months,” they reported.

The inspectors also found staff morale at the centre was “very low”, that “staff struggled to provide basic care to the young people because of the inability to manage their behaviour”.

The residents “did not have any day programme and, as a result, a culture had developed whereby at times, particularly at night, the young people would align themselves together and the assistance of the Gardaí would have to be enlisted to diffuse the situation”.

The inspectors stated that “the young people spent a considerable amount of time in bed during the day and this led to a situation whereby staff [who] attempted to provide basic care to the young people . . . were unable to do so”.

The inspectors also found that there was no recreational activity room and the only such facility was a sitting room with a television.

Both of the centre’s vehicles “had significant damage to their roofs and doors. Inspectors were informed that this was caused by the young people jumping on them and kicking them.”

The inspectors found that staff “were particularly stressed and there was a high level of anxiety in dealing with the young people. Several staff were out on extended sick leave and, in the majority of cases, the sick leave was work-related.”

On the inspectors’ arrival at the centre, the HSE presented them with a plan. This would relocate the service to an alternative site to allow renovation work be completed, develop an educational programme for the teenagers, review the purpose and function of the centre, arrange a review of the young people’s needs and a review of all residential childcare services in the area.

The inspectors acknowledged the proposed plan. But they were concerned that the timing coincided with the announcement of the investigation.

“Evidence was presented to inspectors that requests for this work had been made to senior HSE management by the centre on an ongoing basis for the past 18 months, without a satisfactory response,” they said.

As a result of the shortcomings at the centre, the inspectors have outlined 23 recommendations for the HSE to implement.

Regional manager with the Irish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children Catherine O’Donoghue last night urged the HSE “to act immediately” on the Hiqa recommendations.