Health authority has ‘action plan’ for special care unit

By Maurice Garvey

A HEALTH Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) report into practices at Ballydowd Special Care Unit in Lucan, has highlighted problems with some of the care provided to young people in the facility.

Ballydowd Centre resized

Up to ten children between the age of 11-17 can be cared for at Ballydowd. Youths go there on foot of court orders that they pose a risk to themselves or others.

Following complaints about the practice of separating a child and locking them in a room, HIQA inspected the facility over a three-month period, finishing in July.

The report, published this week, found the rationale for continuing separation of the children was not always based on risk and that staff had not received training on practice.

Inspectors found children in separation without a mattress or blanket overnight – many incidents of separation were for under three hours, whilst six lasted over 24 hours.

Director of EPIC (Empowering People In Care) Jennifer Gargan – an independent association that works with children living in care – said the practice of single separation should “only be used as a last resort.”

Ms Gargan said: “It is deeply concerning that the frequency and duration of the use of single separation has increased. There is a need for earlier intervention by staff in incidents to de-escalate challenging behaviour before the need to resort to separation.

“Staff must be fully supported and equipped to deliver a child-centred approach. Furthermore, young people must be made aware of their right to make a complaint and have easy access to an effective complaints mechanism.”

The HIQA report found standards on promoting children’s rights as “requiring improvement.”

In response Tusla – the Child and Family Agency – say a new improved 30-bed facility is being developed at the site, which they believe will be “better equipped” to deal with “extremely challenging behaviour.”

Lucan TD Derek Keating said the HIQA report raises concerns of “organisational failings” that have “infringed the dignity of some of the clients in the service.”

Deputy Keating said: “I immediately made contact with James Reilly, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. He has told me that Tusla has prepared an action plan to repair these failings and that HIQA have accepted this action plan and it is currently being implemented.”

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