Oberstown staff shortage at centre for young offenders may hamper expansion plan

A critical staff shortage at the Oberstown detention centre for young offenders could upset plans to open three additional units on the campus, an Oireachtas committee has been told.

Ursula Kilkelly, chair designate of the Oberstown board of management, said there should be more flexibility on staff salaries to make working at the centre more attractive.

The north Dublin facility currently has 20 boys on remand and 27 serving sentences. There is just one girl serving a sentence and the youngest child is aged 13.

The centre currently has 54 places — 48 places for boysin eight-bed units and six places for girls — but it has capacity for 90 young people.

There are 13 boys aged 17 in Wheatfield Prison in Dublin, but it is Government policy that young people should be in detention centres.

Prof Kilkelly told a meeting of the joint committee on health and children that an additional 45 staff members were needed to open three new eight-bed units.

Effectively, 12 people have been invited to take up positions as residential care workers, but the centre did not know if they would accept the offers.

She indicated there were issues around salary scales.

Prof Kilkelly, from the school of law at University College Cork, who has been on the board of Oberstown for nearly four years, said that another 100 applications were being processed.

“If we don’t get the 45 staff, we will not be able to open the additional three units. So it is a huge challenge for us,” she said.

The committee agreed to raise the matter with the Children and Youth Affairs Minister James Reilly.

Prof Kilkenny also raised concerns about the lack of a full psychiatric service at Oberstown.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout said the shortcoming should be remedied immediately.

“This echoes the concerns in the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, who are still arguing with the HSE over the provision of psychiatric services,” she said.


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