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HSE to close children's unit following inspection

A report by HIQA found that a Monaghan care unit did not have adequate fire safety procedures in place, leading to a decision to close it.

THE HSE HAS announced the closure of a high-support unit in Monaghan that the Health Information and Quality Authority had found serious problems with.

The report on the Rath na nÓg unit in Castleblayney said children were subject to “systematic bullying” and that there had been at least two assaults on children in the unit. The abuse and bullying came from other children, not staff, the report said.

Children were locked into the unit at night, despite there having been a number of fires in the months leading up to HIQA inspection. When the fire alarm sounded, there was no door release system, meaning that a staff member would have to unlock the doors manually.

Four fires had been lit in the previous six months.

The Children’s Minister Francis Fitzgerald confirmed the closure today.

“I was very concerned to learn of the risk to the safety of the children in the Unit. HSE National Director Mr Gordon Jeyes has informed me that, following the inspection, he met with HIQA on September 20th and advised them of his decision to cease all operations at the centre.

“I welcome the HSE’s decisive move to close the unit. Poor standards must not and will not be accepted.”

The Unit will no longer operate as a residential unit, and suitable alternative placements are being found for the two remaining young people. All managers and staff will be redeployed.

The inspection found that there was “an immediate risk to the safety of children and young people” due to a non-compliance with national standards in relation to fire safety.

There was an identified problem with protecting girls and vulnerable boys from abuse from other males.

The HSE has five residents at the centre, aged between 12 and 17.

The report found that the young people had had their rights infringed upon because of a “restriction of liberty”, but also that there had been a number of unauthorised absences, during which the residents had been at risk.

The centre responded to this by locking the front door, but that had no impact. In the three months from October to December 2012, there had been 33 incidents.

Following the change of policy, in the three months from January to March 2013, there was 34 incidents.

In the report, the Deputy Director of the unit said that the incidents should not be interpreted as the staff condoning the behaviour or practices. The statement added that management and staff aim to minimise the risks to children.

Read: Almost 400 children on child services waiting lists in Waterford

Read: Patients at infection risk due to poor hand-hygiene

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