The Rights and Dignity of Children in Special Care must be Protected: Children’s Rights Alliance Response to HIQA Report

Published date: 
31 Aug 2015

Monday, 31 August 2015: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Children’s Rights Alliance today responded to the publication of HIQA’s inspection of the practice of single separation in Ballydowd Special Care Unit.

The Ballydowd Special Care unit accommodates children who are placed in Special Care under High Court order on the basis that they pose a serious risk to themselves or others. Ballydowd is managed by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. HIQA found instances where single separation fell short of national standards and where certain conditions resulted in inhuman and degrading treatment of some young people.

Commenting on HIQA’s report, Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance said today:

"While HIQA found significant evidence of good practice, it also found cases where young people were held in single separation for excessively long periods of time without proper safeguards or review. It found that the physical environment in the unit created conditions where children were subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment. Some were forced to urinate on the floor and sleep overnight without blankets or mattresses. On one occasion a child spent five days in single separation.

Depriving a child of social contact for prolonged periods of time and in inappropriate conditions can be very harmful. The young people in special care are incredibly vulnerable and many have had traumatic experiences in the lives. This is a specialised area of social care work and the HIQA report found that staff at the unit didn’t always have the training they needed to respond appropriately. It also found that some complaints from children were not handled effectively internally.

It is our view that single separation facilities without basic sanitation should not be used. Children should not be subjected to inhuman or degrading circumstances at any time.

The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture is very clear that in the area of juvenile detention, a rigorous selection and training programme must be put in place for staff. Clear avenues of complaint are also essential to protect children in detention from harm. Such avenues should be available to children both within the units themselves and externally."

The Children’s Rights Alliance is calling on Tusla, the Child and Family Agency to urgently act on this report.

For further information and interview bids, please contact:
Edel Quinn, Tel: (01) 662 9400 / 087 653 1069

Note to editor:
The term single separation is used to describe the restrictive practice of the isolation of a seriously disruptive young person for as short a period as possible, to give the young person an opportunity to regain-self control.

Children's Rights Alliance