My apologies. Oberstown played a significant role in achieving this objective by creating the conditions to enable the campus to take these additional, older young people and we are pleased to have made our contribution to this historic development.
There have been many other positive developments on the campus in the past year that have been important steps in achieving the Oberstown vision statement. These improvements have helped to consolidate the operation of Oberstown as a safe and secure campus for the detention of young people, operating to best practice. Notwithstanding this progress, challenges remain and will to an extent always be part of a facility that is charged with detaining young people with a history of difficult behaviour.
Oberstown is inspected by the Health and Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, on an annual basis. In March, it completed an announced inspection of Oberstown over a four-day period with up to five inspectors involved in various aspects. As part of the inspection, inspectors met children, staff and professionals from other agencies. They observed practices and reviewed documentation such as children's placement plans, policies and procedures, minutes of staff meetings, management meetings and board meetings, children's files and staff files.
During this inspection, HIQA found that, of the ten standards assessed, there was compliance with two, moderate non-compliance with six and major non-compliance with two. Immediate action plans were issued in respect of two issues: safeguarding a child in terms of the safe administration of a prescribed medicine; and ensuring that measures were in place to store medicines securely. I provided a written assurance that appropriately addressed the inspectors' concerns.
Inspectors found that the context in which Oberstown operated continued to be one of major change and that many new structures had been put in place since the previous inspection. These included new governance arrangements, the recruitment of new senior managers and the development of a human resources section.
Inspectors reported that there was a positive atmosphere in the residential units and observed warm interaction between children and staff. Children received adequate emotional and psychological care. They also noted that the approach to the management of behaviour was subject to review at the time of inspection, risk was well managed, policies and procedures were in the process of being reviewed, and the cohort of residential staff had been increased and was adequate.
A comprehensive action plan addressing the compliance issues noted by HIQA was developed by Oberstown following the inspection and is currently being implemented by the campus. All of the issues highlighted by inspectors were already being addressed as part of ongoing work to improve and develop the campus.
One of the areas of concern that the report raised, and that has been a matter of particular attention and scrutiny, is the use of single separation. At Oberstown, we continue to improve our record keeping, monitoring and, most importantly, use of single separation in line with national and Oberstown policy. It is important to note that single separation is used upon admission, for behavioural concerns, contraband and individual programmes. When used for behavioural concerns, there is a clear policy framework in place that staff and the organisation must follow. Oberstown is closely tracking monitoring and evaluating the use of single separation.
In October, the board adopted a statement on restrictive practices to underscore the importance of using single separation and other restrictive practices as a measure of last resort. The restrictive practices statement acknowledges that, from time to time, young people may display challenging behaviour that poses a risk to themselves, other young people, staff or the security of the campus. In such exceptional circumstances, it may be necessary to use restrictive practices to protect a young person or persons from harm, to prevent injury to staff, to prevent damage to property and to protect Oberstown security. Importantly, the board's statement makes clear that it considers it essential to minimise the use of all restrictive practices and ensure that they are used only in line with policy and procedure and are closely monitored and reviewed.
Turning to other areas of progress, I have been working with the board of management on the development of a three-year strategic plan for the campus. This was approved by the board in September and will be launched next month. The plan has five key strategic goals: the care of young people; a skilled and supported workforce; high standards and continuous improvement; communication; and systems and accountability. Each goal has a plan and progress is being made to implement a number of objectives under each.
In terms of ensuring a safe work environment for staff, the campus has a senior management team that focuses on positive care and security, management of risks and enhanced safety while leading the campus into a new period of development. A new deputy director with responsibility for risk and safety has been appointed and the operations of the central hub have been reviewed, with particular focus across the campus on health and safety. Dedicated staff on the campus are now tasked with developing an awareness of risk assessments, investigations and the individual's responsibility to keep everyone safe. Steps have been taken to improve physical and dynamic security with the adoption of a health and safety roadmap and a facilities management company has been appointed to provide external support in this regard, with the effect of enhancing response times and completing timely and effective remedial building works.
Looking to the staff's well-being, a peer support initiative - the critical incident management system, CISM - is being implemented across the campus. CISM is an on-site service providing support to staff involved in workplace critical incidents. A team of trained peer supporters provides a confidential, easily accessible and highly responsive "psychological first aid" service for fellow staff who are experiencing emotional distress arising from a difficult event at work. A critical incident stress management policy and a mental health and well-being guide have also been developed.
The board of management has approved a communication and engagement plan that aims to improve our internal and external communications with staff, young people and their families, and other external stakeholders. The committee may also be aware that we are publishing research and other data. Since April, we have been publishing monthly campus statistics regarding occupancy and providing an age breakdown.
In recent weeks, we published a more in-depth report on the characteristics of young people placed on the campus for the first three months of 2017. As well as offering insights into offending and sentencing, the data collated from this snapshot study highlight the level of adversity and trauma young people in detention have experienced, including the loss of parents, neglect and abuse, and multiple care placements. The data also demonstrate the multiple overlapping risks and needs that young people in detention have and the many professionals and services with which they have been involved. By gathering these data, we hope to inform our services and ensure that there is an understanding by all stakeholders and the public of the service we are attempting to provide and the young people we care for in Oberstown.
A number of other initiatives include the introduction of a programme of embedding restorative practices into the culture of the campus. The aim of restorative practice is to develop community and manage conflict and tensions by building relationships and repairing harm. The programme of training is being delivered by the Tallaght West Childhood Development Initiative, TWCDI. A feature of the programme is that training is provided to young people, equipping them with strategies for dealing with conflict and violence.
We also have a joint initiative with Le Chéile, which is providing mentoring for families of young people on the campus in preparation for their release. This unique and innovative programme allows parents and young people who are involved with Oberstown the opportunity to avail of mentoring and family support services in the community. A part-time worker is based on campus to support the project and this service will be in operation for two years. Youth Advocate Programmes, YAP, Ireland continues to engage directly with young people on campus in preparation for them leaving the campus. It has been on site for approximately two years.
The national reconfiguration of the Tusla assessment consultation therapy service, ACTS, on campus is a positive opportunity to develop further the inter-agency approach incorporating the HSE mental health services and the campus. We plan to have a more integrated approach to the clinical services available to young people in place in early 2018. This opportunity is a development welcomed by all agencies working at the campus.
We are also committed to ensuring that the views of young people are heard and taken into account in matters that affect them, both individually and as a group. The board of management recently signed off on an Oberstown strategy for participation with young people.
In this regard, consultation with young people is ongoing with regular meetings of a campus council made up of young people. The campus council provides a safe space where young people can actively express their views on issues that affect them. Young people have the chance to influence and hear back from key decision-makers in areas of importance, chosen by them. All of these achievements are building blocks to ensure that in time Oberstown becomes an international centre of excellence from both a youth justice and a children’s rights perspective.
Committee members will be aware that in late 2016 and early 2017, a number of reviews of Oberstown were undertaken. In light of the volume and complexity of the recommendations emanating from these reviews, in March 2017 the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs established a review implementation group chaired by Professor Ursula Kilkelly, chair of the board of management at Oberstown, with representation from Oberstown management, staff, trade unions, the Irish Youth Justice Service and an external expert in child development.
Since its establishment, the review group has considered the 120 recommendations emerging from all of the reviews, classifying them according to priority, required resources and owner. Following a period of intense scrutiny and review, work in Oberstown is now focusing on the implementation of these recommendations. Designed to enhance the level of care provided to young people and to ensure that Oberstown is a safe place to work, the implementation process is complex, costly and resource-intensive. Aided by the work of the review implementation group and supported by the strategic planning process, it is important this work is co-ordinated and systematic, and brings to a close the expert input of all reviewers in order to ensure that the young people in Oberstown have the best possible care and education as part of their experience of the wider youth justice system.
I thank the committee members for the opportunity to update them on progress and developments at Oberstown. I extend an invitation to them to visit the campus at any time to see the facility in operation. Professor Kilkelly and I would be happy to take any questions members may have.