A centre for some of the country’s most troubled children is to cease operating as a special care unit for girls, after a report outlined how gardaí had been called to assist staff, and children had been pepper-sprayed and handcuffed.
Gleann Alainn near Cork City is one of four special care centres around the country, with children placed there by High Court order. Tusla admitted difficulties in securing staff for the specialised units.
A Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) report says the premises, home to two children at the time of the inspection, “was not suitable for the provision of special care”.
“Inspectors found that An Garda Síochána had been called by members of the staff team to manage children’s behaviour which resulted in children being pepper-sprayed and/or handcuffed,” states the report.
From January to June of this year, there had been “a large number of significant events” at the girls-only facility. “These included episodes of single separation, structured time away, and incidents of violence and aggression,” states the report.
While children told inspectors they were happy in the unit and had good relationships with staff, Gleann Alainn was not compliant with 12 of 21 standards assessed. Hiqa noted occasional staff shortages or inappropriate staff mix there.
Tusla told Hiqa that Gleann Alainn will cease to operate as a special care service on December 31 at the latest and will then change to an open residential service.
Tusla said 15 of the 26 beds available in its special care units are currently occupied and that it had experienced difficulty in staffing the units in recent years.
“This is partially due to a lack of appropriate and experienced staff available to work in the high-dependency units,” it said.