Boy at Dublin child detention centre isolated for more than 27 hours over three days

Hiqa inspection finds Oberstown campus separated residents for lengthy periods of time

Oberstown Detention Centre, staff, industrial action, safety, offenders, IMPACT, SIPTU,

The entrance to the Oberstown Detention Centre in Lusk | Image: Google Earth

Ireland’s only youth detention centre has been criticised for isolating a boy for more than 27 hours over three days.

Health and social care watchdog Hiqa carried out a pre-announced inspection of the Oberstown facility in November 2015.

Responsibility for the Dublin campus, which caters for 48 children, was transferred from the Department of Justice to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in 2012.

In its findings, published today, Hiqa noted that the centre “did not always record why separations went on for as long” as they did.

Inspectors recorded a number of incidents where children were placed in single separation, or isolated, for lengthy periods of time.

Managers who approved separations rarely documented their decisions, making disciplinary outcomes more difficult to scrutinise, Hiqa said.

Figures provided to inspectors showed there had been 813 incidents of single separation in the previous four months.

The report also highlighted a number of “significant” incidents since the previous inspection in June 2015, including self-harm attempts, staff assaults and serious property damage.

A subsequent management review recommended an immediate stop to a number of staff practices, including the lifting of children in a way that might be dangerous to them.

Significant fire safety risks, particularly in older units, were also identified.

Privacy respected

The centre was found, however, to have ensured children were informed of their rights and encouraged to work with management in making decisions about their lives.

Inspectors observed “warm, appropriate and respectful interactions” between staff and residents.

Children’s privacy was also respected as much as possible, with adequate policies and produces in place for when residents went missing, Hiqa said.

It added that allegations of poor treatment by gardaí were “appropriately reported” both to the Child and Family Agency and the Garda Ombudsman.

Staff members were vigilant about preventing bullying and abuse, and contact details for a designated child protection officer were well advertised, it noted. 

Though children who met inspectors complained about food choices, Hiqa found that residents were overall provided with a "nutritious and varied" diet. 

Oberstown was required on foot of the report to make improvements in seven areas: children's rights, care, child protection, planning, dealing with offending behaviour, health and leadership purpose.

The report can be read in full here.