Wednesday, 21 October 2015
Department of Children and Youth Affairs
Detention Centres Provision
19. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs how he is dealing with the deteriorating safety situation at Oberstown Youth Detention Centre, where staff and children in care have been put at risk, with numerous physical assaults in recent months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35530/15]
A reform programme has been implemented in recent years on the Oberstown campus to provide improved facilities, in order to accommodate older children under the Government commitment to end the practice of detaining children in adult prison facilities. Given the scale of the reform programme, there is a need for sufficient planning and preparation and continued management and staff engagement in order to ensure that campus operates successfully into the future.
The Deputy will appreciate that the operational environment in the children detention schools alters on a daily and weekly basis, depending on the individual risk profile of each child, the implementation of good care practices and the deployment of staffing resources to best meet operational needs. There is need to manage the risk of injury to staff and children with the aim of ensuring safe and secure custody and a safe work environment. All assaults and injuries to staff or children are of great concern. Unfortunately, the risk of injury cannot be excluded completely, given the nature of a children detention school. There is a requirement on all staff and managers to record any such incident under a “notifiable incident policy” which has been adopted on the campus. Injuries to staff can happen in a number of ways. A young person may with intent assault a member of staff. In addition, staff may get hurt in the course of managing a child's behaviour, when involved in approved activities with children or through other issues arising on campus with no involvement of children.
An assault/injury leave scheme is in place which reflects the risk of injury. This is available to all staff in addition to the public service sick leave scheme. A specific “secure unit allowance” is also paid in recognition of the fact that staff are working in a challenging environment.
Staff are trained in how to respond to situations and there is an emphasis on providing all necessary supports when a member of staff is injured. However, the trend of such incidents, the level of supports available and the lessons from each incident are kept under ongoing review and discussed with staff representatives. The task of providing a child detention service will always be a challenging one but my policy priority will continue to be ensuring safe and secure custody for children and a positive work climate for staff on the Oberstown campus.