Teen care centre shut down after worker assaulted

A residential care service for troubled teenage girls in Loughmahon in Cork City, has been closed down for three months by the HSE following an assault on a staff member.

And in another care home, also in the HSE South area, a number of serious incidents have resulted in staff suffering injuries and taking sick leave.

The revelations are the latest in a long line of serious issues for residential services for troubled teenagers.

The HSE said Loughmahon, in Cork City, has been closed for a period of three months to enable a number of staffing and structural issues to be addressed.

HIQA has been notified and alternative arrangements have been made for the children who are resident in the unit and the staff working there.

It is understood a member of staff was assaulted at the house over the Easter period.

At another care home, not identified in a recently published HIQA report, but which is said to be an unsuitable institutional building situated on the outskirts of a small town, staff had to deal with violent and dangerous situations earlier this year and last year.

HIQA inspectors found there were deficiencies in the care practices and operational policies in the centre. The centre had about 14 care staff. However, there were nine agency staff covering for various types of leave and staff single occupancy residential arrangements in place to ease behavioural problems. The use of agency staff in these kind of services has long been criticised by HIQA.

Good management structures are crucial to the safe running of such homes also.

Pat McGarty, senior lecturer and education advisor at Tralee Institute of Technology, said social care managers were concerned that safeguarding of children was being undermined due to the staff embargo and the squeeze to reduce frontline staff.

He said managers who often didn’t get the correct training they needed had to deal with absences, embargoes and staff morale.

In a survey carried out by Tralee IT and Dublin IT, the predominant areas of managers’ stress were staff shortages, interaction with other professional groups, staff morale, staff on sick leave not being replaced, budget scarcity and crisis management.

Mr McGarty said in relation to inspection and monitoring, services are too focussed on documenting what happens in children’s lives, rather than being actively involved with them.

In an attempt to ensure that the wrongs of the past are not repeated, there is an increasing demand on social care workers, even in matters that are routine and of little significance to “make sure it’s reported”.

This results in care becoming clinical and sterile rather than compensatory and spontaneous with the children being the ultimate losers, he said.

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