Residential centre staff locked themselves in office ‘for safety’

Staff locked themselves in an office for safety purposes and called the gardaí at a residential centre for children.

On two occasions, staff had to take protective measures as conditions at the facility were so bad, it was regarded as being “in crisis”.

An inspection report by health watchdog Hiqa into the unnamed residential centre in the South found that just three children were staying there but, over a five-month period, it was plunged into difficulties that resulted in bullying, intimidation and physical assault as issues were not dealt with in a timely manner.

It said children there were living in “an atmosphere of fear”.

The Child and Family Agency, Tusla, said steps had already been taken to address the shortcomings highlighted in the report, published by Hiqa.

The unannounced inspection found major non-compliances in four areas, including care of young people, and safeguarding and child protection. It was fully compliant in just one area and substantially compliant in another.

It said, following this inspection, “issues of concern were escalated to the national director of residential care and the relevant area manager” and, for three months from last December, there was no centre manager as the permanent centre manager was on long-term leave — a period that coincided with the centre being “in a state of crisis due to difficulties with behaviour that challenges”.

An interim centre manager was appointed last February and the situation improved.

The report found one of the three children had not had an allocated social worker for several years.

It also found there were 255 significant events during the seven months since the previous inspection, some of which were serious including assaults on other children and on staff, property damage, fire setting, intimidation of other children and racist remarks, name-calling, and inappropriate sexual behaviour.

Gardaí were called on 11 occasions and there were two occasions when staff locked themselves in the staff office and called An Garda Síochána to deal with the children’s behaviour. There were also 58 unauthorised absences.

The report said the discharge from the centre of a child in April and the decision to not admit any more children for a period allowed the situation to be brought back under greater control.

An action plan was issued and Tusla said a number of measures had been, or would be, put in place, including a permanent centre manager and a deputy manager to be identified through the national recruitment process.

Read the report: www.hiqa.ie


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