Thursday, 28 March 2013
Department of Children and Youth Affairs
Industrial Relations Issues
To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the problems with staffing levels at Trinity House; if she has acted on reports she has received on this issue and to other HR related issues at the institution; if she is satisfied that the institution is fully in compliance with its health and safety responsibilities to its staff; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15746/13]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 220 and 221 together.
There are three children detention schools currently in operation, all located on the Oberstown campus at Lusk, Co. Dublin. These are Trinity House School, Oberstown Boys School and Oberstown Girls School. Under current arrangements, the children detention schools are authorised for detaining males under 17 years and females under 18 years of age
In relation to staffing levels in the children detention schools, one of my priorities as Minister with responsibility for this area is the full implementation of the requirements of the Public Service Agreement on the Oberstown campus. A significant step forward was achieved in this regard on 25 February 2013, with the implementation of a campus – wide staffing roster agreement to apply in all three children detention schools. A key feature of this roster is the facility to deploy staff on a cross campus basis in any of the three children detention schools, on the basis of identified need. I understand that this aspect of the roster has been implemented and I welcome the cooperation of staff to date. One of the aims of this system is to ensure that adequate staffing levels are maintained, in that staff which may be surplus to requirements on a short term basis in any of the three children detention schools on the campus can be redeployed to one of the other sites where the requirement for staff may be more pressing. Such flexibility of operation is a key requirement of the Public Service Agreement.
I understand that notwithstanding the progress that has been made, there are some implementation difficulties which have been experienced recently on the campus with the new roster, including the need to address issues relating to rates of absenteeism and attendance management. These issues are being managed by the Board of Management of the Oberstown campus, working with the Directors of each children detention school and the Irish Youth Justice Service. However, I note that this is the first time that all three children detention schools have been placed on an identical rostering system and some difficulties are perhaps to be expected. I have been advised by the Chairman of the Board of Management and the Irish Youth Justice Service that these issues are being addressed as a matter of urgency.
The Oberstown Board and the Irish Youth Justice Service, with independent assistance in line with best practice, have recently arranged for an examination of a number of claims relating to safeguarding and general work practices in Trinity House School. This approach has been notified to HIQA and I expect that the Board will shortly be in a position to adopt a position on the matters raised, based on the need for fair procedures to be adhered to in all respects.
I am also advised that there are a number of individual employee grievance cases on the Oberstown campus which are currently before the Board and the Irish Youth Justice Service, and that these cases are being urgently assessed with a view to having a complete resolution of them at the earliest possible date.
The Directors on the Oberstown campus are responsible for the immediate control and supervision of each children detention school under the Children Act, 2001. This role includes responsibility for compliance with all relevant health and safety requirements, subject to any general guidance that may be required in this area by the Board of Management. I am not aware of any specific issue which would raise concerns in this area and would expect the children detention schools to operate in a manner compliant with health and safety law and practice. I note that the children detention schools are subject to inspection at any time by the Health and Safety Authority