The news comes in light of strong criticism of the HSE following the deaths of teenagers David Foley, Tracey Fay and, most recently, Daniel McAnaspie, all of whom were in the care of the state.
It has now emerged that since the controversial closure of Ballydowd, no alternative special care places have been provided.
The 12-bed unit at Ballydowd was forced to shut down last year following a damning HIQA (Health Information and Quality Authority) inspection.
The HSE subsequently pledged the closure would not result in fewer places for vulnerable young people, however, no other service is yet in place.
Freda McKitterick, head of Barnardos’ guardian ad litem service, said the situation was unacceptable.
Ms McKitterick said there were now no places in Dublin, and this was causing a bottleneck for vulnerable young people requiring high-support care.
She said although the plan had been to transfer Ballydowd’s services to another unit, Crannog Nua, it was not yet up and running and closed to referrals.
Ms McKitterick said vulnerable children requiring specialised care were now being forced to remain in situations where it was known they are at high risk.
Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act also reveal at the time of Ballydowd’s closure there was concern about the move to Crannog Nua.
In a letter to Hugh Kane, assistance national director of the HSE, HIQA warned “unless the HSE ensures there is a rolling maintenance plan, as well as prompt repairs, the difficulties that have beset the building in Ballydowd could be repeated with the current building in Crannog Nua.”
Ballydowd was forced to close after the publication of a highly critical HIQA report that found it was not an acceptable premises in which to detain children
There are now only nine high-support places nationwide to which trouble teenagers can be referred — four in Limerick, a mixed-bed unit, and five in Cork, all for girls.
Although when initially asked, the HSE said “due to the current industrial action this data is not currently available”, after further questioning a spokesperson confirmed “we are currently in the process of replacing the 12 beds closed in Ballydowd”.