Children’s services publication statement 10 July 2020

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 whose behavior places them at risk. They are placed in special care by the High Court for their own safety 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.

An unannounced inspection was carried out in Ballydowd Special Care Unit on 17 February 2020. This inspection was carried out to assess whether the special care unit had the necessary measures in place to reduce the number of absconds (when a child is away from their care placement without permission) by children and to manage risk to children who had an established pattern of absconds. 

Overall, children were well cared for in the special care unit, but improvements were required in the service’s management of absconding behavior. Children’s safety and welfare was sometimes compromised when they had absconded from the service.  The staff and management team were endeavouring to provide the children with positive experiences outside of the special care unit which may benefit them in the future and support their safe discharge. The provision of positive community experiences needed to be balanced with the actual or potential risk of harm.

The systems in place to ensure outings from the unit were safe, purposeful and resourced adequately were not strong enough. Improvements were required in the systems and decision-making processes in place to respond to absconds, particularly repeated absconds by a child.

The special care unit provided compliance plan responses to address the non-compliances identified on inspection along with timelines for implementing these actions. The report and compliance plan can be found on