Health chiefs have been ordered to review the use of isolation units for troubled teenagers in light of a damning inspection of a care home.
Children’s minister James Reilly said the use of “single separation” should be consistent, safe and accountable after youngsters at Ballydowd Special Care Unit in Dublin were forced to urinate on the floor or denied a shower after being locked up and refused access to bathrooms.
“I know that young people in special care units have experienced great difficulties in their lives and that this can spill over into extremely challenging behaviour, including self-harm and assaults on staff, but this is not the standard of care that we expect,” the Minister said.
Health chiefs are being asked to examine the use of isolation in special care, children’s residential centres and the detention centre for young offenders in Oberstown.
The audit will look at the frequency, duration and practice of single separation and the suitability of the buildings and rooms where youngsters are kept.
“The objective of the review is to ensure a consistent, safe and accountable policy for children’s welfare when this intervention proves necessary, in all the relevant settings in which it takes place,” Mr Reilly said.
The Minister also voiced his concerns over isolation to Gordon Jeyes, chief executive of Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.
He said he and his officials are considering further action following the report by the Health Information and Quality Authority.
Ballydowd has room for 10 youngsters aged 11 to 17 and is the largest facility of its kind in the country. Two other centres are also used to house young people in care who have emotional and behavioural problems and are subject to court orders.
The inspection in July revealed two children were forced to urinate on the floor of an isolation unit and another had to wash with baby wipes for four days after being denied access to bathrooms.
The snap audit followed complaints and it found that single separation - intended as a short-term response to behaviour issues – was used 149 times involving nine children in the previous six months.