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Dublin: 9°C Wednesday 27 January 2021

Child restrained with handcuffs by five staff at Oberstown campus

A HIQA report also found staff excessively used single separation, with one child locked in a room for 83 hours over four days.

Image: Shutterstock/ozguroral

A CHILD WAS handcuffed while being restrained at a detention centre for children, an inspection found.

The inspection of Oberstown detention campus by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) took place in autumn last year, and said reference was made to the young person’s physical strength, in a plan that mentioned the handcuffing incident.

The head of care told inspectors that there was no formal review of the incident but that they reviewed the CCTV, that 5-7 staff were involved and that the restraint was “all over the place”.

The head of care said that handcuffs should not be used within the campus. A staff member was injured during this incident, and the outcome for the child was poor.

HIQA said it was not clear whether the service took any lesson from the incident to prevent it happening again and improve the safety and quality of the service. At the time, 30% of staff had not received up to date training in behaviour management.

Oberstown detention campus provides a detention service to the courts for young offenders between the age of 10 and 17.

Not always safe

The inspection found that children were “not always safe” there, because best practice was not always implemented.

Children were, on occasion, separated from their peers in locked rooms for long periods of time and it was “not always apparent that other interventions had been tried”.

In the 12 months prior to the inspection, there were 758 occasions when children were on their own in their bedrooms, protection rooms or other rooms and HIQA said this “did not demonstrate that single separation was used as a last resort”.

Protection rooms were used in Trinity house, where a child was locked in small room without natural light, while in other units children spent time in single separation in locked time out rooms, in their bedrooms or in activity rooms

There were a variety of reasons for the use of single separation including threats of suicide, being under the influence of drugs or concerns relating to threatening behaviour.

One child was locked in a room for 83 hours and 45 minutes over four days.Another spent 23 hours and 30 minutes over a two day period in dingle separation, excluding sleeping time, because staff were concerned the young person had prohibited items and would not give them to staff. Shorter periods of single separation were also recorded, such as periods of 30 minutes when a child was smoking in school.

A memorandum was issued to all staff after the inspection which specifically referenced misuse of single separation. HIQA said it was also assured that the separation policy would be reviewed.

In total, the report found the centre complied with just one in ten standards.

Jennifer Gargan, the Director of Empowering People In Care (EPIC), an independent association that works with and for children and young people living in care, said the use of single separation of young people is “deeply concerning”.

Young people while in detention should be afforded the opportunity to address their offending behaviour however it is apparent that this is currently not the case.

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