Care unit failed to act on fire safety advice - report


A recommendation to improve fire safety procedures at a special care unit in Dublin for troubled young people detained on foot of court orders had still not been acted on when the centre was inspected 11 months later, according to a new report.

The report from inspectors who visited the Ballydowd unit states that in November 2004 a recommendation was made that senior managers should consider adapting bedroom doors in the centre so they opened outward. Fire blankets in the corridors between bedrooms were also recommended. "Neither recommendation was implemented," the inspectors said.

They were concerned because in the year before the inspection by personnel from the Irish Social Services Inspectorate (ISSI) a young person had set fire to clothing inside her bedroom and was able to barricade herself in because the door opened inwards.

"It is a matter of serious concern that in spite of the self-harming behaviour of some of the young people and the recommendations of the monitoring officer that this assessment has not been undertaken. Inspectors recommend that it is carried out without further delay," the report said.

The results of the latest inspection on Ballydowd, which took place last October, have just been published. While the report refers to many improvements at the centre since previous inspections, it also refers to continuing concerns.

For example, the length it took children in the unit to access psychological assessment was a worry. In one case a young person could not get a first appointment with a psychologist until two weeks before being discharged having spent three months there. "This is totally unacceptable," the inspectors said.

Two staff appointed since a previous ISSI inspection began work before Garda clearance. Six staff were taken on without all the required references being obtained. "There is still room for improvement in vetting," inspectors said.

There were 14 young people in the unit when it was inspected,including boys and girls aged 13 and 15 years.

A spokesman for the Health Service Executive, which runs the unit, said last evening that issues raised in the report had been or were now being addressed. A full-time psychologist had been appointed to the centre, fire blankets had been put in place and bedroom doors opened in the recommended manner. Staff references were also being updated to comply with the most up-to-date vetting requirements, he said.

Overall the inspectors found that out of 25 recommendations only eight were fully implemented. "Nine were either partially implemented or in the process of being met, and eight were not implemented."