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Report: 117 unauthorised absences from one HSE care home

One teenager absconded 72 times from the centre, according to a report by HIQA.

A TEENAGER ABSCONDED from a West of Ireland HSE care home 72 times, a new report shows.

The report from the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) on the children’s residential centre in the Health Services Executive, Western Area (HSE WA) shows the results of an inspection carried out on 21 and 22 June 2012.

The centre had been previously inspected by the Social Services Inspectorate (SSI) in November 2010 and a follow-up inspection occurred in February 2011. In the February 2011 follow-up inspection, inspectors found that progress had been made in relation to the recommendations made.

Centre

The centre provided residential care for four children/young people, boys and girls, aged between 14 and 18 within Galway, Roscommon and Mayo.

The centre also provided an out of hour’s aftercare service to three young people over 18, who were living independently in the area. At the time of inspection there were three young people living at the centre, two boys and one girl, aged between 16 and 17.

The inspectors found that there was a “satisfactory level of care provided to the young people by a committed team of staff”.

Absences

The report showed that there were 117 instances of unauthorised absences from the centre in the past year. These ranged from under one hour to 66 hours, and involved five different young people.

One young person – who had also been the subject of previous inspection reports – had 72 instances of unauthorised absence. The centre used the HSE Garda Síochána protocol for reporting young people missing and centre records showed that all absences were classified and risk rated.

HIQA said that inspectors were informed by staff and social workers that on occasion during these unauthorised absences the young people were “involved in inappropriate and high risk behaviour”.

Inspectors reviewed the records of meetings held between the young person and the staff following the unauthorised absences, and said that

while a particular focus was placed on risk and personal safety, there was little evidence of sanctions being imposed.

Inspectors did find evidence that the absences were reported to the social workers. The report notes incidents of young people returning to the centre after drinking large amounts of alcohol continued.

Inspectors recommended that the HSE WA establish a system of tracking, reviewing and analysing unauthorised absences on a regular basis as well as a response mechanism to examining the factors around such absences.

Sanctions

Two young people told inspectors that they were bored, and that there was nothing to do during the day except go and play pool or drink alcohol, while one said they could lie on in bed every day until 2pm if they wished.

One young person described how they had smashed up their room but nothing was said by staff. On another occasion, the young people had barricaded themselves into a room. The centre then locked away the chairs.

Staff were struggling to deal with the young people who were not attending any substantial education or training courses and young people reported to inspectors that there was no structure to their day.

At the time of inspection none of the young people were in formal education.

There were nine child protection notifications in relation to four young people in the past year. They concerned young people leaving the centre and placing themselves at serious risk. Inspectors found that these were managed appropriately in accordance with Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children.

Following the HIQA recommendations, the HSE controlling the home began implementing changes. Among them was establishing a logbook to record all unauthorised absences, and ensuring that persistent absences “required high level response and intervention”. Regular meetings take place between social work management and senior gardaí.

Read: HIQA publishes data quality guide for healthcare staff>

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