Troubled children in State-run care locked up for 12 hours a day

Hiqa report finds poor outcomes for children at State-run Crannóg Nua high support unit

A report from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) released today - World Mental Health Day - indicates that one in three young people in Ireland is likely to have experienced some form of mental disorder by the age of 13.  Photograph: Getty Some children are being locked up between 8pm and 8am

A report from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) released today - World Mental Health Day - indicates that one in three young people in Ireland is likely to have experienced some form of mental disorder by the age of 13. Photograph: Getty Some children are being locked up between 8pm and 8am

Thu, Jan 9, 2014, 18:27

Inspectors have expressed serious concern over the welfare and safety of young people in a State-run high support unit run where troubled children are locked for up to 12 hours a day.

In a highly critical report published today, the Health Information and Quality Authority found outcomes for the some of the children at Crannóg Nua in north Dublin were poor due to their needs not being met and inadequate management of risk-taking behaviour.

High support units such as Crannóg Nua are open residential services for children in care who require specialised support. They are not supposed to be used to detain young people.

Inspectors said the practice of locking children into the facility from 8pm until 8am contravened national care policies and did not appear to have any legal basis.

The authority said it fully acknowledged the challenge in keeping some children safe, but the practice was in breach of children’s rights and official policy.

“The routine locking of doors impinges on children’s rights and detains children in a way that is not within the legal remit of the high support unit,” the report states.

“Children may only be detained by a High Court order or a sentence relating to children’s offending behaviour.”

A previous report by Hiqa last October found that another high support unit in Co Monaghan was also locking children into the facility. The HSE responded to the criticism by announcing the closure of the unit.

Today’s report shows there were a total of 49 staff employed at Crannóg Nua at the time of the inspection, who were providing care to just four children ranging in age from 13 to 17 years.

In spite of the high level of staffing, inspectors found that staff called the Garda on a number of occasions to provide assistance.

“Children’s behaviour had deteriorated to a point at which staff did not feel safe to physically intervene due to the level of threatening behavior,” the report states.

“Whilst inspectors found that it was appropriate to call An Garda Síochána in these circumstances they were concerned that the service was unable to meet children’s needs in these circumstances.”

The report states that some of children being placed in Crannóg Nua had “high risk behaviour” which required special care, a more intensive form of care which involves detention and must be authorised by the High Court.

A lack of special care beds, however, meant some children were being placed in what was supposed to be an open residential setting, even though it did not meet their needs.

On a more positive note, inspectors found that there continued to be a good standard of care provided to children in many areas and a committed management team, coupled with a motivated staff team, ensured the delivery of a child-centred service.

Crannóg Nua provides residential care and high support to children, boys and girls, aged between 12 and 17 years on admission, who are experiencing some difficulty in their lives and need additional support.

Gordon Jeyes, chief executive of the new Child and Family Agency, said inspections are an integral part of the child care system and said more beds were becoming available for youngsters in care. “My main priority is that where the agency takes on the care of a young person in a unit such as Crannog Nua, it ensures the care, protection and education of that young person, as any good parent would,” he added.

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