Hiqa contacts Tusla over concerns about Ballydowd special care unit

Hiqa contacts Tusla over concerns about Ballydowd special care unit

Ballydowd secure care facility in Dublin, where Hiqa has raised concerns about welfare. File Picture.

An inspection of the country's main special care unit for children has found it is "not adequately resourced with a full complement of qualified and experienced staff", potentially compromising the safety of the service.

The inspection of the Ballydowd Special Care Unit in Lucan, Co Dublin,  by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) also found that vacant management posts were filled on an interim or temporary contract basis by staff members who were inexperienced and untrained in management roles.

"This led to poor supervision of social care workers, some of whom were equally inexperienced in their role as direct caregivers to vulnerable children," it said.

Hiqa said the inspection was carried out in response to a cluster of serious incidents and allegations of misconduct against staff members, and the lack of assurances provided by the service on how these incidents and allegations were being managed.

It was the second risk-based inspection of this service within a 16-week period, following an inspection in February this year.

Hiqa escalated the issues it found in writing to the CEO of Tusla, Bernard Gloster.

It said immediate actions were put in place by Tusla to ensure children placed in the service at that time were safe, to address the key risks, and to strengthen reporting and monitoring systems.

According to the report: "Overall, children had positive experiences of care in the special care unit, but significant improvements were required in the service’s quality and safety of care. The welfare and safety of children placed in the centre, prior to and at the time of the inspection, could not be guaranteed. The children who met with inspectors did not raise concerns about their immediate safety, but they were not always confident that staff could safeguard them from risks posed by other children placed in the unit."

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