Over 40% of child detainees at risk of abuse and neglect

Data on teenagers at the country’s main children detention campus has found that more than half were in care or known to the care system, and more than 40% were considered to be at risk of abuse and neglect.

Over 40% of child detainees at risk of abuse and neglect

The data was published this week by the Oberstown Children Detention Campus and relates to the first three months of this year, when 69 young people were detained at the facility in Co Dublin, ranging in age from 14 to 17 years.

The information on those detained at Oberstown shows that many had a difficult upbringing, had a range of personal problems including issues with drugs and mental health, and were at risk and also posed a risk to others through challenging and sometimes violent behaviour.

The data showed that there were concerns about self-harm in respect of 32% of those detained at Oberstown in the first three months of this year, while 42% were considered at risk of neglect or abuse.

More than one-third of detainees came from Dublin, and for 10 young people it was their first time in detention.

Of the 69 detainees, 37 had multiple charges relating to theft and fraud, while a smaller number of cases related to assault — including sexual assault — criminal damage and in 9% of cases, firearms and offensive weapons charges. Just over half of those detained were on remand orders and a slightly smaller percentage of young people were on detention orders, with periods of detention ranging from 30 days to more than four years. Two-thirds of detainees were Irish and 23% were from the Travelling community.

One-fifth had lost a parent and more than half had an absent parent, while 45% had been in care prior to detention. Five of those in detention were either fathers already or expectant fathers.

The snapshot also showed that: 55% had a mental health need; 32% were on prescribed medication for a mental health concern; 78% had substance misuse problems; and just 14% were engaged in education prior to detention. One-third had some form of diagnosed learning difficulty.

Of those detained, 47 had demonstrated challenging behaviour in the past or on the campus. Three young people with no record of aggressive or violent behaviour before going to Oberstown had engaged in that behaviour while on campus.

During the first quarter of the year, 68% of those detained were discharged, mostly on remand orders.

Commenting on the data, Pat Bergin, director at Oberstown, said the data would help to better understand the characteristics of young people placed at the facility, adding that they have complex needs and risks, which he said frequently require a holistic and multi-agency response. He said he hoped the data would inform the necessary services and interventions that would assist young people in moving on from offending behaviour.

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