Children’s services publication statement 15 September 2023

Date of publication:

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has today published a report on Ballydowd Special Care Unit. Special care units are secure residential units for children aged 11 years to 17 years. Children are placed in a special care unit by a court when their behaviour poses a risk of harm to their life, health, safety, development or welfare, and the placement is needed for the child’s care and protection.

HIQA inspects against the Health Act 2007 (Care and Welfare of Children in Special Care Units) Regulations 2017 and the National Standards for Special Care Units, which apply to special care units in Ireland.

An unannounced inspection of the special care unit was carried out over two days in July 2023, to monitor compliance with regulations. Of the eight regulations assessed, the provider was found to be compliant with six and substantially compliant with two.

Children were provided with safe, rights-based care which focused on developing skills that would be of benefit to them in the future. They were protected against abuse and neglect and were encouraged to engage in education and leisure activities, in line with their rights. Children had mixed views about living in the special care unit, and some expressed frustration at having to wait for onward placements to become available so they could move out of special care.  

The provider had strong reporting systems in place with clearly defined management structures. The provider had developed systems to monitor the safety, effectiveness and quality of care provided to children. There were also systems in place to identify, manage and review risks within the service.

The inspection found safe staffing levels for the number of children detained in the special care unit at the time of the inspection. However, a significant increase in staff was needed in order for the special care unit to operate all of the beds registered to the service. The level of mentoring, support and supervision of staff was found to be of a good standard. 

While children’s records were appropriately detailed and provided a clear picture of each child’s individual needs, improvements were required as some inaccuracies were identified in records and not all children had up-to-date care plans on file. 

Following the inspection, the provider submitted a satisfactory compliance plan to address the relevant standards that were deemed substantially compliant.

The report and compliance plan are available at the link below.