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Children abscond from Tusla care centre 42 times in five months

No further admissions will be made to the Tusla centre until these issues are fixed.

Image: Shutterstock/Eakachai Leesin

A REPORT BY the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) on a Tusla-run children’s residential centre has identified serious risks in how the care of young people at this facility is handled.

The centre, located in the south of the country, had last been inspected in August 2016, and this follow-up took place in December 2016.

Hiqa found that, in this period, Tusla had not taken appropriate measures to improve its care of young people and children absconded from the centre on 42 occasions.

Slow progress

In the August 2016 inspection, Hiqa identified “significant failings” in relation to the “care of young people, safeguarding, premises and safety, and management and staffing”.

Inspectors recommended improvements across seven categories. Across six of these categories, further improvements were recommended following this latest inspection.

While there had been improvements made in the reporting of significant events and child protection concerns by the time the December inspection took place, “progress in other tasks has been slow” according to Hiqa.

“Improvements were not evident in how staff responded to children’s risk taking behaviours,” the report said.

Overall, inspectors were not confident that Tusla had made sufficient progress to ensure that deficits identified… were being addressed as a matter of urgency.

The report highlighted that no further admissions would be made to the centre until these issues were adequately addressed.

Children in crisis

In the August inspection, Hiqa said there were “significant deficits found with how the centre responded to children in crisis”.

Hiqa recommended improvements in how children with risk behaviours were managed, the quality and oversight of children’s individual crisis management plans, and incorporating recommendations from social workers into their plans.

While Tusla had said it would implement a series of measures to try to address these issues, Hiqa said that “progress was slow and inspectors were concerned at the lack of urgency to implement the actions outlined by Tusla”.

Management at the centre told inspectors that their action plan to improve their care of the children was “paced in order to ensure real and meaningful change”.

In the absence of new or different approaches, Hiqa said that strategies at preventing children from risky behaviour was not generally effective.

Between the August and December inspections, there had been 152 “significant events” involving children at the centre.

Children had absconded from the centre on 42 occasions and engaged in risk behaviours whilst outside of the centre on some of these occasions.

In addition, management failings including the “absence of good quality and consistent supervision, regular team meetings and adequate oversight” meant that inspectors were not convinced that sufficient progress had been made to improve practices of care.

Reaction

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, Jim Gibson, Chief Operations Officer, Tusla said that the agency was committed to improving its standards at the care centre and was taking a number of steps to ensure this.

He said: “In conjunction with HIQA, we have created and begun to implement an action plan to address the deficits identified and I have established an oversight group which has met monthly since January to coordinate its implementation and ensure progress is made.”

Read: Foster service in south central Dublin had ‘significant risks’ for children

Read: Two cases of patient records left on car roofs among 212 HSE data breaches

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About the author:

Sean Murray

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