Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 137. - Children in care [2206/15].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 137. - Children in care [2206/15]. (22 Jan 2015)

137. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs his views on a Health Information and Quality Authority report indicating that children at a care centre in the southern region routinely engage in illegal drug use and criminal activity during frequent absences from the facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2206/15]


Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy James Reilly): The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has a statutory responsibility to inspect the Child and Family Agency's children residential centres under Section 69 of the Child Care Act 1991. I view these independent inspection reports as an essential component of quality improvement for children's residential centres, which work alongside internal processes within the Agency. Residential care accounts for a very small proportion - less than 5% - of children in care (316 of 6,454). During 2014, HIQA focused its inspections of residential centres on how staff manage children - usually older teenagers - who have behaviour described as challenging and difficult.


Last week there were concerning reports in the media regarding a children's residential care unit in the southern region following the publication of an inspection report on 12th January 2015. HIQA's inspection found that the three teenagers living in the centre at the time were taking risks primarily in the form of taking illegal substances when outside the centre. The inspection report notes that the staff and managers tried to make sure that these young people were safe but weren't able to prevent them from leaving the centre without permission or taking drugs. I am advised by my officials that Ireland is somewhat unusual in that we have quite a number of 16 and 17 year olds coming into care. Latest figures from the Agency indicate that 14% that is, 258 of young people received into care in 2013 were over the age of 16. Some of these young people had very difficult lives before coming into care including histories of emotional and behavioural difficulties and substance misuse. Agency staff and those working in HSE mental health and addiction services engage with these young people to try and help them overcome their problems - but helping young people with such complex backgrounds is challenging work.


I take the care and safety of all children and young people in care very seriously indeed, as do the Agency's staff, and I recognise that the job of helping troubled young people to resolve their difficulties is key to keeping them safe. This includes referring young people to specialist addiction counsellors in the HSE when required.


The Agency has advised me there is one young person living in the centre now - he is doing well and has a good relationship with the staff. Another young person was discharged home and the third is in a private residential centre (following a period of detention in the criminal justice system). Since the inspection, the Agency has advised that it is carrying out a management review of the centre and that no further children are to be admitted pending its outcome. I have asked the Agency to keep my Department appraised and look forward to learning the outcome of the review.

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