A district court judge has stated that it is “scandalous” that the State is paying a private operator €4,500 a week to house a troubled teen with no services, writes Gordon Deegan.
At the family law court in Ennis, Judge Patrick Durcan said that the €250,000 annual spend on accommodating the 16-year-old at an apartment in a town in Co Louth is a multiple of what would cost sending a teen to Eton College in England.
Judge Durcan said: “There is an expenditure of €250,000 a year by the State for a boy in a centre where there is nothing being provided for him... There seems be no planning involved in this case. There is no planning, purely reaction, no action — reaction the whole time.”
The boy was placed there last week after being transferred from a residential unit in Co Clare where solicitor for the boy’s mother, Ann Walsh, admitted that the boy was out of control there.
The principal social worker in the case said that the teenager at the Clare residential centre was very difficult, hard to control and didn’t engage with any therapeutic services.
She said: “He was assaulting staff, smashing up the place, up on the roof of the unit, into cars. The fact that the boy is able to maintain his new residential placement without assaulting or abusive behaviour or without coming to attention of the Gardaí, to me — that is a huge improvement.”
However, Judge Durcan said that there is no structure in place to date for the boy at his new placement and he is free to come and go from his apartment between 9am and 11pm each day: “I cannot see this type of structure at €4,500 a week. I cannot see what is being put in place in return for that — at that cost, I think it is scandalous. I’m sorry, I have to say that, I just can’t see it.”
Judge Durcan said that the €4,500 per week “is gross over-costed”, adding: “There is a level of daftness that this country has got used to and this is part of it.”
The director of services of the private agency that operates the home where the boy’s apartment is located said that the boy “has been doing pretty well” but he agreed ‘to a point’ that the boy has no structure.
Ms Walsh said: “This weekly plan by the mentors doesn’t appear to show any structure. My client’s difficulty with the situation is that he is free to leave the unit from 9am to 11pm and at the weekend, there was an occasion when he didn’t return and he had to present himself at the local Garda station.”
The social worker said: This is really a settling in period and I wouldn’t like people to get bent out of shape over this initial plan.”
She said that the CFA has contracted a private psychologist to carry out work on the boy and this is costing €7,000 while separate counselling sessions for the boy are to commence next week. The private work is to commence on September 27.
Solicitor for the Child and Family Agency, Kevin Sherry said he disagreed with Judge Durcan’s criticisms and said that there is a level of structure that will be implemented as of this Friday: “There is always a bedding down period. There is a good track record there. It is very early days in the placement.”
Judge Durcan said that he viewed the matter to be so serious that he would return to Ennis on August 11 to get an update in the case.
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