A report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) also found aggression levels between children and the outside community were high and that two of the youngsters were involved in criminal activity locally.
In a second HSE-run home, bullying between two children escalated to the point where one child sought medical assistance.
Social workers were also made aware of child protection concerns relating to four children on 24 occasions over a 12-month period, including underage sexual activity, assaults by other people outside of the centre and inappropriate contact from adult males.
However, social workers made no written response to the notifications — made by the home’s manager — and told HIQA inspectors there was a lack of child protection and risk assessment training for social workers in HSE North East.
Social workers also told HIQA that Children First, the national guidelines for child welfare and protection, had historically not been implemented in HSE North East due to industrial relations issues. They were awaiting training in the revised version of these guidelines.
The revelations are contained in two separate reports by the independent health watchdog, following its inspection in January and February of two children’s homes in HSE North East.
HIQA said a social worker told inspectors they had only recently become aware of an allegation of sexual assault against one young person, despite it having been notified to the HSE’s social work department 10 months previously.
In one home, where the youngest child was 12, placements of five out of six children had broken down in the course of a year and they were subsequently placed in detention, secure care or private residential facilities.
HIQA said measures used by staff to manage bad behaviour did not work and the result was the home was “unsafe at times and children had unplanned transfers to different services”.
HIQA also criticised a four-month delay in assessing an allegation of inappropriate contact between two young people at the home.
In a statement last night, the HSE said detailed action plans had been drafted outlining what would be done to meet the HIQA recommendations. The action plans will be implemented by March 30 in relation to one home and by May in relation to the second home.
Staff had received in-depth training in relation to bullying within residential care and that a number of practices in both homes had met the required standard.