Tusla - Ireland's Child & Family Agency

Tusla statement on HIQA inspection reports for two special care units

Inspection findings in both units positive with all regulations found to be compliant or substantially compliant. 

Tusla – Child and Family Agency notes today’s publication of HIQA inspection reports on two special care units, Ballydowd and Crannog Nua.

Special care is a secure residential service for young people who are struggling with a situation in their lives and require extra support. Young people are placed in special care in order to receive the additional help and supports they need, in a safe and secure environment. Young people placed there are under the regular oversight of the High Court.

In Ballydowd, six standards were inspected, with two found to be compliant and four found to be substantially compliant. The report noted that there had been a number of improvements in the governance and management of the unit.

The inspection found that children placed in Ballydowd were positive about their experiences of their care. Children told inspectors that being in the centre had helped them, that they had good contact with their families, and that they were supported by staff and key workers and could talk to them when they needed to.

Some of the findings were that:

  • Systems for monitoring the practice in the centre had been reviewed and improved upon, and issues relating to staff supervision were being addressed.
  • The management team established an oversight group to review any safeguarding issues identified, and there was increased management oversight of child protection and welfare concerns.
  • An external review of risk management systems was undertaken and effective measures had been place to improve the management of risk.
  • A new collective risk assessment system has been developed in relation to new admissions of young people.

Continued improvement is ongoing, including further staff training on the new policies and procedures, significant events, and safeguarding.

In Crannog Nua, eight standards were inspected, with four found to be compliant and a further four found to be substantially compliant.

Some of the findings were that:

  • There were warm interactions between staff and children in the unit, which demonstrated the positive professional relationships that had been built by the staff team.
  • Children in the unit were able to experience a range of activities, such as camping, cycling and sporting activities.
  • The individual units where the children lived were spacious and bright, and communal rooms and bedrooms were homely.
  • Children maintained good contact with their families and the key professionals involved in their lives.
  • There were strong management systems in place to ensure effective oversight, and there was a culture of openness, transparency and learning in the unit.
  • Risks were effectively identified and managed, including those relating to Covid-19, and appropriate control measures were in place.

Staff supervision timelines are recognised as an important aspect of supporting staff working in the unit, and management are taking actions to ensure that supervision is taking place within designated timeframes.

Speaking about the reports, Donal McCormack, National Service Director, Residential Childcare Services, Tusla said:

“Special care is a unique environment which can often be challenging and complex. Recent inspections did highlight a number of areas in one unit which required improvement, and we have taken immediate action to address these issues. As well as the improvements noted in this report, we are pleased that young people in these centres have had a positive experience of their care, despite the additional challenges posed by Covid 19.”

Tusla receives consistent and high quality regulation and oversight, by various external bodies including HIQA. This oversight assists us in ensuring that our practices deliver good quality, timely and appropriate interventions and services for children. Provision of alternative care for some children is very complex due to the level of trauma they have experienced in their lives. Improving the quality of that care set against high standards and regulation is a continuous process, and while we are aware that we have further work to do, the positive findings in this report are most welcome.

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