Improvements at youth detention facility welcomed but ‘more effort needed’

The Irish Penal Reform Trust has welcomed a report showing significant improvements at the Oberstown youth detention facility, but said more effort was needed regarding restrictive practices involving children.

The inspection report, conducted by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa), found improvements in a number of areas at the Oberstown campus, including health, education, relationships between staff and children, and the emphasis on participation and consultation with children.

However, the IPRT highlighted inadequate record-keeping on physical interventions with children, and the use of handcuffs on children within a secure environment. It said although there had been a welcome reduction of 56% in the use of single separation, the number of incidents remained very high, at 1,701 last year.

IPRT executive director, Deirdre Malone
IPRT executive director, Deirdre Malone

IPRT executive director, Deirdre Malone, said: “Questions must be answered about the use of handcuffs within a secure campus. All international and national guidance and best practice is clear that handcuffs should not be used within a campus, except in the most exceptional cases.”

The IPRT also called for urgent improvement in engagement by Tusla with management and children at Oberstown.

Meanwhile, Hiqa also published three inspection reports on children’s residential centres. Inspectors found that a centre in Cork City was majorly non-compliant in two of the standards assessed.

Issues included challenging behaviours not being managed, and ineffective routine management plans for some children in the centre, which had resulted in poor and unhealthy sleep. The premises was institutional in nature, unkempt in places, and in urgent need of refurbishment.

Gardaí had been called 10 times in the previous year to assist and 220 significant event notifications had been issued over the same period, 103 of which related to unauthorised absences. Inspectors noted that “the staff team continued to engage in outdated practices”.

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