Oberstown Detention Centre has been criticised for keeping a boy in single separation for over 27 hours across a three-day period.

According to the latest inspection report of the youth detention centre released by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa), Oberstown met just one of the 10 standards assessed at the time of the inspection last November.

No standard was exceeded, seven required improvement, and “significant risks” were identified in relation to two standards.

Hiqa reviewed a number of incidents where children were placed in single separation for long periods of time.

It noted that recording of these incidents was “poor” and that it was not always recorded why separations went on for as long as they did. In one case, a boy spent more than 27 hours in single separation over a period of three days.

“The records did not show that single separation was the least restrictive practice that had been employed or what other interventions were tried with the boy prior to or during the use of separation and what the outcomes were,” noted the report.

Hiqa inspectors expressed concern that there was “inadequate evidence” to indicate that it was necessary to separate the boy for such a lengthy period of time.

The report noted that there had been a number of “significant incidents” since the previous inspection in June of last year. As a result, senior management undertook a review and found that a number of practices needed to cease with immediate effect. These included the practice by staff to operate outside the approved management of behaviour procedures. For example, on occasions staff moved children by lifting a child in a way that would be dangerous for the child.

Hiqa found “significant risks” in relation to fire safety and required immediate action. Two children’s bedrooms were found not to have any adequate smoke control system.

Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon expressed concern over the findings noting that staff shortages were hampering the quality of the service being offered to children at Oberstown.

“Hiqa’s report shows that Oberstown met the required standard only in the area of education, while improvement was needed in the areas of children’s rights, care of children and child protection. Worryingly, a significant risk was also identified in relation to staffing and management.

“The impact of staff shortages is abundantly clear throughout this report. While it is evident that the staff in place are doing a very good job with the resources available, it is clear that shortages are making it more difficult to build relationships with children. This is having a direct impact on the service available,” he said.


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