Irish Penal Reform Trust

Inspection report on Oberstown Children Detention Campus published

7th January 2020

HIQA has published its latest inspection report on Oberstown Children Detention Campus; the announced inspection visit was carried out from 16-18 July 2019.

Out of eight standards assessed, Inspectors found that the Campus was compliant with five standards; one standard was ‘Substantially Compliant’; and two standards were ‘Non-compliant Moderate’.

There were 39 children held in Oberstown on the date of inspection. Children’s views are documented in the report. Children commented very positively on staff, feelings of safety, and interventions including problem-solving exercises to avoid periods of single separation or restraint. They also spoke of opportunities they had been provided with in Oberstown that would benefit them in the future. Children also highlighted that remand units were in poorer condition than the rest of the units, and there were fewer opportunities for children on remand to engage in activities on the campus.

The report notes a "cultural shift" led by the Board and senior management "to challenge previous practice and promote a less restrictive living environment for young people" and reports that significant progress has been made. IPRT strongly welcomes this. The inspectors found improved reporting arrangements on the use of restrictive procedures, with a robust governance framework in place. In relation to single separation, the inspectors noted that "a strategic approach was currently being taken to ensure these reductions in numbers were not just sustained, but that the duration of single separations would also reduce". While there had been a reduction in the use of restrictive procedures, the inspectors noted that there was still a significant use of restrictive procedures on the campus.

A key concern raised in the report was the quality of reports being relied upon and the level of detail concerning restrictive incidents being recorded. The recording and reporting of the use of all physical interventions by staff had not improved sufficiently according to HIQA. Furthermore, details such as the start time and end time of single separations had also not improved, as well as a clear demonstration of how children’s rights were promoted during these incidents.

While complaints by children were described as being well managed, the level of detail on complaints also needed improvement - for example, the outcome of a complaint (eg founded or unfounded) was not recorded.

The inspection report found significant efforts had been made to improve the quality and delivery of offending behaviour programmes. Where young people did not have capacity or were not suitable to attend group programmes, there were programmes in place tailored to meet the individual’s needs. However Inspectors noted a need for an "extended suite of programmes" in order to address specific offending behaviour tailored to meet the individual needs of children.

Overall, IPRT welcomes progress detailed in the inspection report, and HIQA's finding that management and staff at Oberstown are working to reduce the use of restrictive practices on campus. Nonetheless, the continued significant use of restrictive practices is of concern. The report highlights the importance of recording detailed data on these incidents in order to achieve the goal of reducing restrictive practices.

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