Three Irish children are currently residing at St Andrew’s in Northampton by order of the Irish High Court, while a number of other Irish young people have been in similar placements there in recent years.
On Wednesday, a Channel 4 documentary entitled Under Lock and Key featured the stories of some UK residents who had stayed there, with many of those interviewed for the programme raising serious concerns about how their relatives were cared for.
The aunt of one girl, Fauzia Yasmin Hussain, who spent 22 months in St Andrew’s, told the programme: “I was very concerned she would die there, really.”
The documentary makers were told she spent much of her time at the facility in segregation, and sometimes in a room with little natural daylight.
The parents of Matthew Garnett, another child who had been placed in the centre, also expressed misgivings about the care offered to their son. He was restrained and placed in seclusion 11 times over a five-month period, with his parents claiming that they were not properly consulted.
A separate report also indicated that face-down (prone) restraint was used at St Andrew’s, particularly in its child and adolescent wards.
St Andrew’s defended the standard of care on offer, said measures are taken to protect patients and others at the facility, and told the programme-makers that prone restraint is only used as a last resort.
Responding to the programme, Tusla said there are currently three children in Tusla placements in St Andrew’s Healthcare.
“Whilst Tusla is satisfied with the care provided to the young people currently placed at the facility, we will be meeting with St Andrew’s Healthcare and seeking further assurances in relation to the current practices at the facility,” a Tusla spokesperson said.
“Each child was placed in St Andrew’s Healthcare under an order of the High Court, which retains oversight of the placement.
"St Andrew’s Healthcare is highly regulated. However, these children remain in the care of Tusla and to ensure their safety and wellbeing, we receive regular detailed reports on the child, they have regular visits from their allocated social worker, an up-to-date written care plan, access to their families/carers where this is in their best interests, and aftercare planning with an allocated aftercare worker.”
Tusla said each young person in such a placement has a court-appointed Guardian Ad Litem and the ultimate goal was to have them return home to Ireland.
The spokesperson said that St Andrew’s Healthcare is a secure mental health facility and in making such placements, the High Court here required a clinical recommendation by a HSE/Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service psychiatrist, with stipulations that arrangements are in place to ensure ongoing clinical oversight by a psychiatrist from the mental health service in Ireland.
“The courts will ask that the psychiatrist provides reports on the child’s progress in the care facility,” the spokesperson said. “These arrangements are put in place to ensure clinical continuity for the young person and their family and to assist in planning for the young persons return to Ireland when clinically indicated.”
In 2015, a judge granted the wishes of a young Irish woman who applied to return to Ireland from the €400,000 a year facility.