The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) is concerned at the slow pace of progress in implementing key HIQA recommendations at the Oberstown Children Detention Schools, revealed in the Follow Up Inspection Report of the facility published today (Thursday 22nd October 2015).
Among the most serious concerns are: the excessive use of single separation as a response to negative behaviour; failure to conduct fire safety training and drills with the young people; very low provision of offending behaviour programmes; and inconsistencies in care planning and medication management.
While the report identifies strong efforts by management to address issues raised in previous HIQA inspection reports, progress in effecting improvements at the facility continues to be very slow – put simply: children’s lives cannot wait.
Commenting on the HIQA report findings, IPRT Executive Director Deirdre Malone said:
HIQA is meeting its mandate in terms of robust monitoring and inspection, but its effectiveness depends upon the swift and full implementation of all recommendations, and in particular those that relate to the safety of children.
It is extremely worrying that single separation appears to have become the default response to disruptive behaviour at Oberstown. An average of 6 incidents of single separation per day is too many, given that the numbers held at the facility are below 60. Isolation from their peers is extremely damaging to children and young people, and must only be used after other forms of de-escalation have not worked.
Only a small number of children had access to offending behaviour programmes, which is far from ideal given that the purpose of the facility is to address these behaviours.
Many of the young people who end up in Oberstown have been consistently failed by the State, and arrive with negative experiences of State care. It is crucial that this opportunity to turn around their young lives is not undermined by low staff morale, low levels of staffing or staff training.
IPRT is also seriously concerned that 16-year-olds continue to be detained on remand in St Patrick’s Institution, a practice which we were told ended in 2012. The Government clearly committed to ending the imprisonment of children in St Patrick’s Institution, and this can only be met by ensuring Oberstown is fully operational and functioning well.
For further comment or an interview with IPRT Executive Director Deirdre Malone, contact Fíona on: 087 181 2990
1. IPRT was responding to the HIQAFollow Up Inspection Report of the Detention Schools Services under the Children Act, 2001 published 22nd October 2015. The unannounced follow up inspections were conducted on 16 and 17 June 2015. The report is available at: http://www.hiqa.ie/social-care/find-a-centre/inspection-reports
2. On Friday 16 October 2015, there was one boy aged 16 detained on remand in St Patrick’s Institution, and thirteen boys aged 17 detained under sentence at Wheatfield Place of Detention: http://www.irishprisons.ie/images/dailynumbers/16_october_2015.pdf
3. Since Monday 30th March 2015, boys aged 17 can be remanded in custody to the national children detention school campus at Oberstown, Co. Dublin. The DCYA press release ‘Oberstown to commence taking 17 year old males remanded in custody – Minister Reilly’ is available here:http://www.dcya.gov.ie/viewdoc.asp?Docid=3411&CatID=11&mn=&StartDate=1+January+2015
4. The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) is Ireland's leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for the rights of everyone in prison and the progressive reform of Irish penal policy, with prison as a last resort: www.iprt.ie IPRT has campaigned for the end of imprisonment of children in Ireland since the organisation was founded in 1994.