Children’s services publication statement 29 May 2023

Date of publication:

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has today published a report on Coovagh House 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 was carried out over two days in March 2023. This was a follow-up inspection to assess whether the special care unit, which had previously been found non-compliant across all eight regulations assessed in October 2022, had made satisfactory progress to come into compliance with the regulations and to determine if the service was safely operating in line with their revised conditions of registration and revised statement of purpose. 

Overall, this inspection found that the service had maintained the improvements to governance and management systems in place since the last inspection. The provider was compliant with the 11 regulations assessed as part of this inspection.

Children spoke openly around staff and they were listened and responded to in a meaningful and thoughtful way. With bed numbers in the unit being reduced to two, several staff were available to children. Children’s rights to safeguarding against abuse and neglect was upheld within the unit. Children’s rights to education, leisure time and activities were promoted, and they were encouraged to engage in these pursuits and outings. 

Securing onward placements for children required improvement. This was identified as an issue by the children living in the unit, staff, management and external professionals. It was a significant issue for children who remained in the unit for longer than required.

The provider had strong reporting systems in place with clearly defined management structures. Enhanced management structures had been put in place since the last inspection. There was adequate staffing in place to deliver a safe service and meet the needs of the children living in the unit. All staff were qualified and had completed their mandatory training, which was up to date. The level of mentoring, support and supervision was of a good standard. 

The oversight and auditing processes in relation to the management of incidents, complaints and allegations concerning children in the unit continued to be effective. Mechanisms were put in place to ensure management were made aware of any incidents in a timely manner. Child protection and welfare concerns were managed in line with the requirements of national policies and guidance. Staff were aware of their safeguarding duties and all staff had up-to-date safeguarding training. 

At the time of this inspection, the unit had revised their statement of purpose with the view to returning to a four-bedded unit. Management told inspectors that to prioritise children’s safety, interactions between the children would need to be carefully considered and risk-assessed. Several actions had been taken by the registered provider in the form of compliance plans, and all actions were completed at the time of this inspection.

The report is available at the link below.