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'Significant' use of restrictive practices in child detention centre, report finds

A Hiqa report said the use of these practices should be further reduced.

The outside of Oberstown Detention Centre in Dublin.
The outside of Oberstown Detention Centre in Dublin.
Image: Eamonn Farrell

A FURTHER REDUCTION in practices that limit the freedom of children in Oberstown detention centre is needed, a Hiqa inspection report has said. 

Oberstown Children Detention Campus in Dublin is a facility for children aged 10 to 18 who have been sentenced or remanded in court. 

A report from the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) into the centre has found that although there has been a reduction in the use of restrictive practices, they remained “significant”.

These practices are said to be anything that “limits the rights or freedom of movement of a young person”, according to the Board of Oberstown Statement on this issue. 

“The commitment to promote the least restrictive living environment for young people was evident in the everyday opportunities provided to them,” the Hiqa report said. 

It found that there was a “concentrated effort” to reduce the number of high-risk interventions such as physical restraint or the use of single separation, both of which “are not uncommon” in places of detention for young people. 

“However, incident reports written by staff directly involved in an incident and retained on a child’s file, did not always accurately or fully record each event and so there was a potential risk that all restrictive practices were not being identified and reported as such,” the report said. 

39 children were in the facility on the dates the inspection took place in July. Those who spoke to Hiqa inspectors said they felt safe and that they were treated fairly by staff and unit managers. 

They also said they received support when issues arose or incidents occurred to avoid periods of single separation or restraint. 

The young people said the staff were “alright up here” and “on the ball”. They said staff members discussed anger management and helped them to see how their behaviour could be different. 

Single separation is when a young person in the facility is separated from the others when they are deemed likely to cause significant harm to themselves or others and/or where they are likely to damage property that could compromise security and impact on the safety of others.

Changes

Two of the young people told inspectors that remand units were “like being in a run-down home” compared with the newer units on the campus.

Young people on remand were mainly living in older buildings while the newer units were mostly used for those placed on detention orders. 

Those on remand in Oberstown have fewer opportunities for engaging in activities, the young people told inspectors.

All of the young people said they were aware of programmes available to address their offending behaviour, and all except one (who had recently been admitted) had participated in some of these programmes.  

The report said there was “an increased recognition” of the opportunity for the service to support young people breaking cycles of offending behaviour. 

Effective case management

The case management system (CMS) in place at the centre was not as effective as they could be, the report found.

There were some gaps in signatures on a paper log for requesting, removing and returning handcuffs, which had been noted already in audits. 

Staffing was reported as adequate at the time of inspection, but the progress rate on addressing deficits in staff supervision was not assured.

This supervision “remained inadequate”, according to the report.

The facility has nine residential units, a school building, recreational facilities and a reception/administration block.   

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