Hiqa finds significant improvements at two special care units

Crannóg Nua and Ballydowd facilities cater for children detained by court order

Significant improvements in care provided to some of the most emotionally disturbed children are noted in two reports from the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa), published on Thursday.

The reports, on Ballydowd and Crannóg Nua special care units, say child residents feel safe and listened to and can pursue healthy interests such as sports and camping. Two of the four children at Ballydowd at the time of the inspection said they "wouldn't change anything about the centre".

The units, both in Co Dublin, are special care facilities where children may be detained by order of the High Court for stabilisation when their behaviour poses a real and substantial risk of harm to their life, health, safety, development or welfare. Both cater for boys and girls aged 11-17, and children may not leave without approval.

The centres were subject to follow-up inspections at the end of last year after examinations in June 2020 (Ballydowd) and December 2019 (Crannóg Nua) found shortcomings in management, governance, staff supports, supervision and some staff practices.


In October 2020, inspectors at Ballydowd found governance and management systems “had been reviewed and strengthened”. Practice monitoring systems had been improved and staff were better supported.

“Any issues regarding the practice of individual staff were identified more promptly and were addressed appropriately,” says the report.

However: “At the time of this inspection the service continued to experience challenges in relation to the recruitment and retention of staff despite engaging in a rolling recruitment campaign.” There were 41 staff at the centre.

While in June there were a number of unqualified staff at Ballydowd, this time “all but one staff member had appropriate professional qualifications”.

Of the six standards inspected at Ballydowd, it was compliant with two and substantially compliant with four.

At Crannóg Nua “warm interactions between children and staff members” were noted.

“All children described feeling safe . . . They said that they liked the staff. One child said that ‘some staff are grand, they sit down and listen and if I feel worried I can go to them.’

“Individual units in the centre where children lived were spacious and bright. Communal rooms and bedrooms were homely.”

Hiqa found a “real drive, led out by the management team, to develop and grow a cohesive and experienced staff team, in order to ensure that the special care unit provided good quality care to children”.

There were six children in the centre at the time, in September 2020, with 58 social-care staff, nine social-care leaders, two deputy-managers, three managers, a person in charge and unit-director.

Of eight standards, the unit was compliant with four and substantially compliant with four.

Welcoming the reports, Donal McCormack, Tusla’s director of residential childcare services, said special care was a “unique environment which can often be challenging and complex.

“As well as the improvements noted . . . we are pleased young people in the centres have had a positive experience of their care, despite the additional challenges posed by Covid-19,” he said.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times