Children’s services publication statement 09 October 2018

Date of publication:

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has today published an inspection report on Oberstown Children Detention Campus. 

Inspectors from the Health Information and Quality Authority are authorised by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs under section 185 of the Children Act 2001, as amended, to monitor Oberstown Children Detention Campus and provide advice to the Minister. HIQA inspects Oberstown Children Detention Campus to ensure that the wellbeing, welfare and safety of children is promoted and protected, and to measure its compliance with the Standards and Criteria for Children Detention Schools (2008) and its implementation of Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children (2017).

An unannounced inspection was carried out in Oberstown Children Detention Campus across five days between 7 and 13 March 2018. All 10 standards were assessed as part of this process, with half of all standards found to be compliant or substantially compliant. Moderate non-compliance was found in the remaining five standards. 

Oberstown Children Detention Campus was undergoing a period of relative stability following a succession of major changes over the previous years. A number of external reviews, commissioned in 2016 to support the development of the campus, had been finalised with over 307 recommendations. There was evidence that many of the recommendations relating to Oberstown had been implemented in full and work on the remainder was underway at the time of this inspection. 

Overall, inspectors found that improvements were evident in the areas where campus management had focused and the necessary resources had been applied. However, insufficient progress had been achieved to bring practices into compliance with Standards and Criteria for Children Detention Schools in several areas including; care of children, planning for children, dealing with offending behaviour, premises, safety and security and staffing and management. 

In December 2017 the Oberstown Children Detention Campus Strategy 2017-2020 was launched. This strategy was devised in consultation with staff, management and external stakeholders and sets out five strategic objectives for the campus. The strategy identifies key approaches by which Oberstown will achieve their objectives, including; implementation of their new care framework, having in place multi-agency and specialist support, and enhancing accountability provided by management, including the Board of Management, for the campus.

The management structures and governance arrangements in place had been strengthened and were clear. In the 12 months prior to the inspection a number of changes had been made to ensure that the campus functioned more efficiently and effectively and to enhance the service provided. A strategy for updating campus policies, procedures and guidelines was in the process of being implemented; however, a number remained outstanding despite having been highlighted during HIQA’s previous inspection of the campus. Improvements had been made to the management of risk with a focus on ensuring risk was effectively identified, assessed and managed.

Significant improvements were evident in relation to children’s healthcare, with healthcare now fully compliant with the Standards and Criteria for Children Detention School. Children’s educational needs were appropriately assessed and met. Collaborative working between the school and campus staff was evident and children were encouraged and supported to achieve their educational goals. 

Improvements had been made to the planning and review of children’s care. However, procedures were not adhered to in all cases and assessments of children’s needs and risks, which informed this process, were not always comprehensive. External services were not consistently engaged in this system which compromised planning for children’s future after detention. Additionally, plans were not fully inclusive of children’s offending behaviour needs.  

Children were aware of their rights and there were improvements with regard to children participating in making decisions about matters that concern them. Children knew how to make a complaint but the process for responding to and recording complaints was not robust. 

There were systems in place to ensure children were safe and that child protection concerns were appropriately referred to the relevant agencies. However, the multi-agency responses and necessary co-operative working arrangements to ensure effective responses were lacking. 

While management of challenging behaviour had improved and the use of restrictive practices had reduced, there were deficits in the recording, monitoring and management oversight of restrictive practices, including single separation, physical intervention and the use of handcuffs. 

Improvements were evident in the management of risk, and health and safety on the campus. Improvement works completed on the premises were well thought out and the campus was generally fit for purpose within the constraints of safety and security. There was no major outstanding maintenance work to be carried out. 

While staffing levels were adequate to safely care for children, they were not always ideal and at times this impacted on the level and quality of care provision. Support mechanisms available to staff had increased since the previous inspection; however, deficits were found in the provision of supervision and performance development for staff. 

Oberstown Children Detention Campus has provided an action plan response to address the non-compliances identified on inspection.