herald

Friday 15 December 2017

Child was handcuffed and others locked in solitary for 83 hours

The Oberstown detention centre in Lusk, which is to be redeveloped.
James Reilly

Handcuffs were used to restrain a child in a Dublin detention centre which has failed to meet a range of best-practice standards.

The handcuffs incident involved up to seven staff restraining a young person at the Oberstown detention centre in Lusk.

The incident was included in a report by inspectors from the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) published yesterday.

The head of care at Oberstown told the inspectors handcuffs should not be used in the centre. The senior staff member conceded that CCTV footage of the incident showed efforts by staff to restrain the young person were "all over the place." A staff member was injured in the incident.

Locked

The report state 30pc of staff had not received the latest training in behaviour management.

The inspection was carried out in October and November and found the centre reached best practice standards in only one of 10 categories.

Oberstown provides a detention service for young offenders aged between 10 and 17 years old.

The report stated that children were "not always safe" because of the failure to achieve best practice standards.

Children, at different times, were separated from their peers in locked rooms and it was "not always apparent that other interventions had been tried," said the inspectors.

In the year prior to the inspectors' visit, there were 758 occasions when children were on their own in their bedrooms, protection rooms or other rooms and the HIQA inspectors declared this "did not demonstrate that single separation was used as a last resort."

Among the reasons youngsters were separated from other juveniles were threats of suicide, threatening behaviour, and being on drugs.

It stated one child was locked in a room for 83 hours and 45 minutes over four days. Another child spent 23 hours and 30 minutes over a two-day period in single separation, excluding sleeping time, because staff were concerned the young person had prohibited items.

Shorter periods of single separation periods included spells of 30 minutes for young people caught smoking.

Shortcomings were also found in the management of medication in some instances. One child was found not to have had their required medication administered for three days.

Managers have already produced an Action Plan for rectifying shortcomings.

James Reilly, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, said the issues raised in the report are "a matter of concern in terms of ensuring safe and secure custody for all children in detention and are being addressed by campus management."

He welcomed the management's Action Plan concerning separation of children and medication management. Other actions been taken include training in behaviour management and fire safety.

Worrying

A spokesperson for the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said the ISPCC was "saddened" by the inspectors' report and stated the highest possible standards are needed as children's welfare is of paramount importance.

Jennifer Gargan, director of EPIC, the organisation which provides advocacy for children in care, said the shortcomings were "very worrying."

Meanwhile, IMPACT union members at Oberstown staged a one-hour work stoppage yesterday in protest at the lack of a scheme to continue paying salary to injured staff unable to work for more than six months because of assaults at work.

aokeeffe@herald.ie

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