HIQA Inspection Report on Oberstown Detention Centre: Discussion

I welcome the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Katherine Zappone, and her officials, Dr. Fergal Lynch, Secretary General of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, Ms Michelle Shannon, director of the Irish Youth Justice Service, IYJS and Mr. Tony O'Donovan, child welfare adviser, IYJS, to the meeting. I thank them for their attendance this morning and for bearing with us while we dealt with committee business.

Before we commence and in accordance with procedure I am required to draw attention to the fact that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to this committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence in relation to a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of the evidence they provide. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or any official either by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

I also remind members to switch off their mobile phones or put them into flight mode. Mobile phones interfere with the sound system and make it difficult for the parliamentary reporters who report this meeting. Web streaming and television will be adversely affected if they are left on.

I wish to advise that any submissions or opening statements made to the committee will be published on the committee website. I understand that the Minister will make a short presentation, followed by questions from members of the committee.

I thank the Chair and all the members of the committee for the opportunity to be here to discuss the recent Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, report following the 27 March inspection of the Oberstown Children's Detention Campus.

I am aware that the committee has had the opportunity to hear from Mr. Pat Bergin, director and Professor Ursula Kilkelly, chair of the board of management at Oberstown, as well as representatives from HIQA in November 2017 on these matters. I welcome an opportunity to update the committee on the progress on some of the issues identified. The Chairman has already welcomed my officials.

On the reviews that have taken place, I think the committee is aware that in recent months there have been many positive changes in Oberstown. These changes are continuing to address the challenges at the campus. In 2016, the Oberstown board of management commissioned independent reviews in a number of key areas of operations, security, health and safety and behaviour management. In addition, examination of all of the policies in Oberstown, including care, safeguarding and professional standards on the campus, has also taken place.

There were a number of objectives for these reviews, and a key objective was that optimum care continues to be given to children residing in Oberstown following the changes that have taken place in the past 12 to 18 months. Essential to this is ensuring the people working in Oberstown are supported through good organisation, training and development. The recommendations of these reviews, as well as the action plan developed by Oberstown following the HIQA report, will point the way forward in ensuring the highest standards of care for these young people are being sought to be implemented.

To ensure the implementation of each of the recommendations in the various reviews, as appropriate, I established a review implementation group in March 2017. This implementation group was tasked with analysing the recommendations of the operational review, the security review, the behavioural management review and the two health and safety reviews. I am pleased to confirm to the committee I have received the final report of the review implementation group, and I express my thanks to the group. Having studied the report, I am confident there is evidence that positive change is taking place and that further change is planned for the campus. The report highlighted the work that has already taken place in implementing the recommendations and the timeframe for work on outstanding recommendations.

The full implementation of the recommendations must be viewed as a long-term strategy for the campus, while some of the recommendations are more immediate. Implementation of the recommendations of each review is under way on campus. It is led by the board of management, in collaboration with management, staff and the Irish Youth Justice Service of the Department. One of the best ways of knowing whether things have changed is by hearing from the young people themselves. With regard to their participation, I am pleased to say I received a letter from the young people in Oberstown inviting me to visit to tell me about their accomplishments while in Oberstown. I plan to visit very soon. I would have visited earlier except I have not been well, but I am back in action and I am very interested to hear what they have to say. I am pleased they invited me.

The Department is consulting young people in Oberstown, through the participation hub in the Department, on revised national standards that set out the rules that govern Oberstown and how it is run. The hub supports implementation of the strategy through the provision of information, training and advice for Departments and agencies and the non-statutory sector. The consultation in this regard with the young people in Oberstown is nearing completion and has involved intensive engagement since November 2017. The purpose of the process is to ensure the Department's new national standards will reflect the views of the young people. A child friendly version of the standards will also be published.

In December 2017, which is not that long ago, I was delighted to launch Oberstown Children Detention Campus's strategic plan for 2017 to 2020. I welcome the commitment of the board of management, stated in the Oberstown strategy, to working with me and the Department as we progress the common goal in the youth justice sector of supporting children to move away from offending behaviour and towards making a more positive contribution to society.

The committee is aware that Oberstown has gone through considerable change in recent years, with the amalgamation of the three detention schools into one campus, the development of new buildings, staffing issues and a number of serious incidents at the campus. Oberstown is now a more stable environment than it was at the time of the serious incident in 2016. The issues relating to the buildings are mainly resolved and staff are now deployed throughout the new units. In addition, as far as practicable and in accordance with international best practice, young people on remand are kept separate from those young people convicted and serving a sentence.

Other developments relating to the campus include an increased focus on, and awareness of, health and safety and greater focus on ensuring the safe and secure care and work environment for the children and staff. The assessment consultation and therapy service, ACTS, is a specialist service provided by Tusla. It provides on-site multidisciplinary therapeutic services for the children in Oberstown. ACTS has been reviewed by Tusla. It is an opportunity to develop further the service in Oberstown, including the incorporation of HSE mental health services. A communication plan has been adopted and launched by the board of management to improve internal and external communications among staff, young people, their families and all stakeholders.

As the committee is aware, the HIQA inspection in March 2017 identified areas that required improvement. An action plan to address these areas was agreed between HIQA and Oberstown. I understand work in this regard is progressing in line with the timetable agreed in the action plan. It is important to point out the HIQA report also identified a number of positive improvements at the campus. The inspectors observed kind, warm and appropriate interaction between staff and children in what was generally a relaxed atmosphere in the units and during activities. For me as Minister this is really important. It also highlighted that the overall provision of health care had improved, with dental and psychiatric services now being provided on campus. It also observed the availability of nursing services has increased, while other important changes in the management structures were noted. As I mentioned, I very much welcome the comprehensive action plan to address the areas identified by HIQA that require improvement. I will keep the implementation plan under review.

With regard to restrictive practices, issues were raised by HIQA in its most recent report on restrictive practices, which include, as the committee is well aware, single separation and the use of physical restraint and handcuffs. It is the Department's policy that the use of any restrictive practice should be a measure of last resort and part of a continuum of planned interventions. The decision to separate a young person must, at all times, be a proportionate response to the risk posed by the young person. A review of the restrictive practices, including the separation policies for Oberstown, took place earlier this year and a revised single separation policy was approved by the board in April 2017. I am assured by Oberstown management that a process to ensure greater monitoring of single separation has been put in place. An improved system of record keeping on the use of such practices, the extension of single separation and the types of restraint used have been informed further by the audit review.

It is, of course, widely accepted that supporting and training staff in behaviour management and the concerns raised on the use of separation and restraint cannot be addressed in isolation. Meeting the complex mental health needs of the children in detention and supporting staff to develop therapeutic relationships with children is an essential component of addressing the current difficulties in addressing the use of restrictive practices.

The committee is aware of the recent High Court judgment relating to single separation in Oberstown. It was found the constitutional rights of the applicants were breached in so far and for so long as they were deprived of daily exercise and any contact with their families during the period of separation, and by the failure to provide the applicants with some form of opportunity to make representations. It was also found there was a lack of procedural safeguards relating to separation, in particular the formal written recording of decisions was found to be unconstitutional.

For the sake of accuracy I confirm it was not found that the duration of the separation was unconstitutional or that the conditions of detention during separation in their totality amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment. Importantly, it was noted in the judgment that while the response "may have gone too far in certain respects, and failed to observe procedural safeguards, the overall context was one of trying to make safe an institution which had just been through a major upheaval".

I know that there has been a lot of learning in Oberstown from this incident.

I wish to comment on the bail supervision scheme and take this opportunity to inform the committee of other measures that will impact on the detention of young people. I was happy to launch the bail supervision scheme on 12 June 2017 on a pilot basis. The programme provides the Dublin Children's Court with the option during remand proceedings to grant bail to a child rather than detaining the child. The option offered to the court would be to release the child on bail with conditions set by the court. This would involve intensive supports being provided to the child and his or her family. The pilot is for an initial two-year period, during which a review and evaluation will be conducted to determine the future path of the scheme with the intention of its being rolled out nationally. The approach is in keeping with the principle that the detention of a child should only be imposed as a last resort. A proposal for an extension of the scheme is currently being examined by my Department.

Since 31 March of last year no new children have been detained in adult prisons. Signing that order was one of the most important highlights for me as Minister so far. Since then, all 17 year old boys referred by the courts are detained in Oberstown and now finally the policy to end children being detained in adult facilities, which I have attended, has been achieved. The policy has had long-standing support in the Oireachtas and among organisations and people who actively promote the rights and welfare of children.

The key to achieving the policy goal of ending children being detained in adult facilities was the completion of the capital development project at Oberstown and the subsequent amalgamation of the three children detention schools in June 2016. While these changes have brought great advantages, they have also inevitably brought many challenges. The key to overcoming these challenges and maintaining good progress has been the dedication and co-operation of the key stakeholders, in particular, the children, staff, management and the board of Oberstown, who are supported by my Department and in particular by the Irish Youth Justice Service.

It should also be kept in mind that our paramount objective in our work is the safety and well-being of the children, while they spend their time in Oberstown, as well as that of staff and people living in the local community.

I wish to underline my commitment to the further development of the youth justice system in Ireland. I wish to acknowledge the dedication of the staff and management. I commend them, the director and the board on their work in addressing the daily challenges. I thank those responsible in HIQA – I meet them as well - for the valuable work they undertake in highlighting issues that, in turn, allow us to achieve higher standards of care for young people.

The key to all of this is co-operation among all those involved. My Department and I are fully supportive of working with all parties for the smooth operation of Oberstown. I am happy to take questions from the committee.

Thank you, Minister. Your remarks are always welcome. Thank you again for coming in. Two speakers have indicated. I have no wish to limit unnecessarily your contributions, but it is 10.23 a.m. and we have another session to work through. I propose that contributors take five minutes each. Then, if people wish to come back in, they may do so. We will try to limit it to that.

Thank you, Chairman. I thank the Minister for her presentation. I fully acknowledge that there has been major progress in Oberstown. However, I am still deeply concerned over certain areas. When Mr. Bergin was before the committee, many of us expressed concerns. I am keen to know whether progress has been made on certain points and, if not, I want to know about the timeframe for progress.

We have often spoken about separation, whereby a child is separated due to difficult behaviours. We have discovered that when they are separated there is no exercise, communication or family contact. I do not believe anyone has any idea of the serious impact this has on a child. Something as simple as taking an iPhone from a child at home in a normal environment can have serious consequences, to the point where sometimes the child contemplates suicide. Separation is really a terrible experience for these children and it is inhumane for them to have to go through it with restraints. What progress has been made in this regard? The term "as a last resort" is often used. What are the criteria for "as a last resort"? Have we looked at other countries where the authorities are in similar situations but handle things differently?

I welcome the fact that the Minister is meeting the young people. That is wonderful. I imagine everyone is aware that a report or review of adults will be significantly different from a report or review of children. One of the things I urge the Minister to talk about when she meets them is restraints. What is that like? What would they prefer to see happen? It is crucial that we involve our children. They know that they might have to be constrained in some way, but they should be allowed to be involved in that particular constraint.

Complaints arise, and when Mr. Bergin was before the committee we spoke about our serious concerns. What length of time does any of us have to wait to see that real progress will be made on such issues? Is there a timeframe? Can we have follow-up on a more regular basis in respect of how progress is being and can be made?

I thank Senator Freeman for those questions. I fully appreciate and affirm the experience out of which Senator Freeman has raised all those questions. It was clear from the HIQA report and the other reviews that there was room for considerable change in respect of the use of single separation with children in Oberstown. That is the first thing to say. There is an acknowledgement of that.

There are two aspects, as I understand it, in terms of the way those responsible are approaching the implementation of changes. The new policy developed and approved by the board of management is now being implemented. There is now an absolute approach to more careful systematic recording of decisions taken for single separation and why those decisions are taken. There is regular monitoring and record keeping of when children are separated. Enhanced arrangements are now in place to enable the senior management to oversee the process on a 24-7 basis, if and when it arises. New procedures and careful recording of what is going on have been put in place. This is closely observed and monitored by management as well.

I am aware that these things are happening. I have held conversations with some of the staff and, more recently, with the director. I believe the new approach and process enables a more careful assessment, response and awareness of how this separation is impacting on the child or young person. I sense that is where Senator Freeman's question is coming from. I am going to suggest that, as part of that process, the staff who are working with the young people are alive to that.

I hope that empathic presence, which has been supported through additional training to improve staff safety and confidence in being with the young person, and training on how to behave with that person, will make a difference for that young person if he or she is in the position in question. That is really important to acknowledge. With the changes in processes and oversight of management, I hope for and expect an impact on the experience of the young person.

Is there a timeframe? Is there a progress report on implementation?

There is ongoing monitoring of the records by all the deputy directors. There have been specific audits in recent quarters. Those are provided to management, and that indicates progress to me. I hope that answers the Senator's question.

I welcome the Minister and thank her for her opening statement. As she said, since the end of March 2017, no child has been held in an adult prison. This is very significant and has been a long time coming. Well done to the Minister in that regard.

Let me touch on single separation. At the last meeting, I made a point to the director of Oberstown that I had really serious concerns about the use of single separation. While I and all other representatives here understand the need for it to be used in a limited set of circumstances, we were all really concerned about how frequently it was being used. The HIQA report issued in March found there were 3,027 incidents of single separation in 2016. All of us here find that deeply worrying.

I raised with Mr. Bergin the fact that the HIQA report noted concerns were raised over the prolonged periods in which children were held in single separation. I want to raise this with the Minister also. I and others here were very unimpressed with the response we got regarding a child who was held for nine days in single separation. Let me quote page 20 of the report: "[I]n the case of one child, the first record of the child getting out for fresh air in the yard was on the day eight after initial separation." We all agree that, with the poor quality of record-keeping at the campus, it is very hard for us to draw conclusions. The child could have been out on other days but, because there were no records, we do not really have visibility as to what is actually occurring.

In the Minister's opening statement, she said progress has been made and that the unit managers are monitoring single separation and have put measures in place. The Minister said this includes an improved record-keeping system. This is welcome. Does the Minister believe the current guidelines on the use of single separation are sufficiently robust? Is she confident that, in any future reports from HIQA, there will be a massive improvement in that regard?

The Minister made reference to the High Court case that found a limited breach of constitutional rights for young people and single separation. Following that ruling, the Irish Penal Reform Trust called on the Government to introduce a legal framework governing the holding of children in single separation. Is this a matter that the Minister has considered and pursued? What is her opinion of it?

Page 23 of the report concerns Tusla and the reporting of incidents in respect of child protection. Three reports were sent to Tusla from the DLP at Oberstown. I find it very concerning that Tusla did not acknowledge receipt of these complaints.

What is the reference?

Page 23 of the HIQA report refers to the reporting of child protection incidents and complaints. Three complaints were made to Tusla, and it did not even acknowledge them. I am very concerned that there was no receipt of an acknowledgement. Has the Minister raised this with Tusla? If so, could she let us know its response?

My first point by way of response relates to the identification of the deep concerns of the committee regarding single separation and the policies and practices associated with it in the past. I accept the point and share the deep concerns. It is good that the Deputy is raising them again, even now, on the basis of the report.

There was a revision of the single separation policy as of April of last year. Are the guidelines in the context of that policy sufficient? I hope and expect they are on the basis of the review. HIQA was pointing out the agreement between it and management regarding the implementation and identification of new practices. Having said that, the Deputy is correct to ask her question. A certain amount of time has now passed and we are into a new year. Regular monitoring is required. I have indicated that regular monitoring is occurring and that the results are coming to my Department and me. On that basis, I will be seeking in the relatively near future a report or discussion, in the context of my Department, specifically on this issue so we can be satisfied with the way in which the new processes are being implemented.

Perhaps Mr. Tony O'Donovan will make more specific comments on the implementation of the new processes and practices in order to indicate the changes to the committee members.

With regard to Deputy Mitchell's question on communicating with Tusla and whether there was a response, I do not know. I will be seeing Tusla representatives later today. I will certainly raise the question asked by the Deputy and revert to her and the other committee members.

Mr. Tony O'Donovan

With regard to the development of national policy, policy is percolated down to Oberstown. The area of most concern that HIQA raised concerns the procedures in implementing the policy. In Oberstown, there has been a lot of work since the issuing of the HIQA report on policy and procedures development. I refer to the policy and what needs to be done. There are now many more operational procedures for staff concerning what they should do. These include the review period. In other words, if a young person today is separated from the group, for whatever reason, there is a certain level of management involvement within the first two hours. If it goes beyond two hours, there is another level of management involved. It goes from unit manager to deputy director to director. Moreover, because of the new structures in place, we now have a deputy director who is specifically responsible for care services. We have another person for staff development and health and safety. We have allowed staff more access to directors on a 24-7 basis, as the Minister said. There are systems in place. There is a director or deputy director on campus or available at the end of the telephone line. Therefore, if there is a review to be carried out, it is carried out much quicker than it was heretofore. For this reason, there is much less drift, meaning the case of a young person who is separated is more likely to be approached straightaway. The ideal is that if a young person is separated, for whatever reason, he or she is given a timeframe for discussion. The discussion is had and, based on that, the risk assessment is reviewed, a decision is made on whether the person may come out and join the group again, go out to exercise or meet his or her family.

On the questions of Deputy Mitchell and Senator Freeman, it was suggested that when I am next at the campus, which will be relatively soon, I should ask about young people's experiences of the changes in the policy and practice in respect of the use of single separation or the use of restraints. I will do that.

I welcome the Minister and thank her for presentation. I would like to focus on the operational review that was carried out in October or November 2016. Dr. Niall Muldoon, the Ombudsman for Children, appeared at our previous meeting to discuss the review. He said that it was like working in a vacuum because the review had not been published. Who made the decision not to publish?

It was not my decision. The board of Oberstown commissioned the operational review and, following a detailed, careful and lengthy process informed by independent legal advice, it was decided that it was not safe to publish the review for legal reasons. As a result, it was not my decision.

I thank the Minister for her clarification. Can she understand why the Ombudsman for Children said that the report should be published and why we are asking so many questions? We are operating in the dark. The Minister had just been appointed in July 2016. It was a troubled time in Oberstown, which featured in the media on a continuous basis. There were issues at the centre but the independent operational review was commissioned following presentations to the committee by the Minister and the chairman of the board of management. We all welcomed the review because, as Mr. O'Donovan said, it would highlight the gaps in the policies and procedures. We know the picture but we do not know how the jigsaw has been built because we do not know how low a base we have come from. That has been left to one side but an action plan is being put in place relating to policies and procedures. We should learn how low a base we are coming from. It is important for Oireachtas Members and for the public that the report should be published. What is the Minister's opinion?

I deeply appreciate the questions the Deputy is raising. First, she outlined the commissioning and process of the review and its importance, as well as the hope regarding what that could provide to us as we move forward in our job and, most importantly, in respect of what is going on within the campus to raise the standard of care and safety for the children and young people and for the individuals who work there. She also outlined the importance of the review in the context of other reviews, which I acknowledged at the time.

Second, the review was conducted and recommendations were made. Recommendations were published and they became part of a group of hundreds of recommendations from the various other reviews that were compiled and synthesised to develop an action plan. They are being implemented by an oversight group that I put in place to do that. The recommendations that came out of the review have been attended to and they are being addressed and implemented in the context of that work. We have some light that we are working with in respect of the author of that report as distinct from complete darkness.

Third, with regard to the publication of the full report as distinct from the recommendations, the board received legal advice that it would not be safe to do so. I also sought legal advice from the Attorney General and the advice was that prior to the report being published, due process would need to be followed by way of considering publication. My understanding is that the director now has a copy of the report and due process will be followed. I will then seek additional advice to ensure due process has been completed and when that happens, I will ask for the report to be published.

I thank the Minister. A great deal of good work has been done. That can be sensed from the comments of Mr. Pat Bergin and Professor Ursula Kilkelly from the board of management during their appearance before the committee. Reading between the lines, there is a great deal going on. However, according to the HIQA report published last August, the centre was not compliant with eight out of the ten recommendations in some form or another. There was significant non-compliance with two recommendations. However, the inspection took place in March 2017 and significant work was still being undertaken. I still have ongoing concerns about the HIQA report. How does the Minister feel about non-compliance with eight out of the ten recommendations seven months after the initial story broke about the roof incident?

I ask the same question every time Mr. Pat Bergin and Professor Ursula Kilkelly appear before the committee. How are they getting on with the Office of Public Works, OPW? Have they sufficient funds? The Minister announced increased funding for Oberstown in the past two budgets. A fundamental recommendation related to doors but when they appeared before the committee last, they replied that the doors still had not been installed. Somebody along the line is not co-operating. The doors were a big issue and they still had not been put in. Is the OPW slow to release funding? Where is the problem?

With regard to the HIQA inspection and eight of the ten recommendations not being met, it is disappointing. At the same time, huge change has been taking place over the past two years in Oberstown. First, the centre did meet a number of the standards when HIQA went in. HIQA is doing its job, which is good. Some of the issues the authority raised that needed immediate attention and change were addressed as a result of the report. An action plan was developed and an agreed timescale is in place. The Oberstown staff are responding and making changes on the basis of that. Second, I have also indicated that in light of all the recommendations from the various reports, the working group I established to implement them amalgamated them into 120 recommendations. They are also being implemented and monitored. Third, HIQA judges the activity, practices, etc., on the campus and new standards are being developed.

Children have had a voice in feeding into that. We are moving towards finalising these standards and publishing them in a relatively short time.

Everything I am describing indicates an ongoing dynamic environment, particularly considering the context. It is disappointing when they do not make the standards, particularly in that time. The review conducted by the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, in 2017 was important. We have the action plan and implementation of the other recommendations. I hope that when we move towards other inspections, there will not be as many standards that are not reached. At the same time, it is a dynamic environment with some of our most challenging young people. I acknowledge the incredible commitment and openness to implementing change on the part of the campus director and his team. We have positive indications from the changes through the reduction of significant incidents over time.

There have been challenges with the issue of the doors but there have been improvements. New and better doors have been installed in one unit and this will be extended to the other units soon.

Mr. Tony O'Donovan

The Deputy asked what delayed the installation of these new doors. It was a case of trying to get the right doors for the right environment without them being prison-style doors. That is what took much of the time and further development. We have sourced appropriate doors. Unit eight is now completely fitted out with these new doors, along with other necessary alterations completed. The unit is now occupied by a group which has transferred from another. We will continue the progress. We intend working through all six units in that way. It will take up until September, depending on the demand for places from the courts.

Does that include exterior doors? There were problems with exterior doors in the past.

Mr. Tony O'Donovan

Some extra doors have been ordered. The original was only for bedroom and corridor doors. Additional doors for the exterior not originally planned will now also be provided.

I thank the Minister for attending the committee and her report on Oberstown. The mental health and well-being of the children at the campus is, obviously, a high priority. What percentage of the children there come from backgrounds which are the most deprived according to the national deprivation index? I imagine it is extremely high, which makes their mental health needs more complicated with more demands. What happens when there is a diagnosis of mental illness and how is it dealt with on the campus?

Is the bail supervision scheme for the Dublin Children's Court to be extended to Cork? How many have availed of it since it was launched? When we went to the campus last summer, we met the first child who was to avail of it. I hope he is doing well. I look forward to the interim data on it and the two-year evaluation and review of the scheme. Has the Minister an update on the scheme? Where are the children released to? I imagine the majority are released back home. Are there other services into which they can be released? What age bracket does the bail supervision scheme cover? What is the lowest age involved? How many times has the court used this option?

When we visited the campus, underneath the veneer, it was at times quite fraught. Some of us got to talk to the staff. There was a lot of disquiet. I accept that will happen in any place in the middle of change. Would it be possible for the Minister to talk to the staff again when she visits the campus next? They might be freer to discuss issues of the culture change and whether it has brought along the majority of staff. It makes for an extremely unhappy and dangerous place when staff do not feel ownership of a new culture or management system. I hope this has begun to heal at Oberstown. I suggest the Minister meets with the staff separately for feedback and to see how matters are progressing.

I met the staff separately when I was there prior to the work and changes which have gone on. The Senator's suggestion is good and I will do it again. When I did it before, there was a respect for my request from the director and management.

There is a provision on-site for a multidisciplinary approach in supporting children's mental health needs. There is better availability for psychiatric services and supports for young people. It can become integrated with other professional services which are part of the assessment consultation therapy service, ACTS, which is on offer to these young people. Before we attended the committee, my team and I were discussing the different activities in which these children are engaged. We learned they are actually raising money for charities. I was impressed with that because this is behaviour we would associate with being normal. This impacts on their own sense of who they are and their identity. Other young people do this and they want to do it too.

It is about developing empathy.

It is a positive sign.

Some of the key characteristics of the young people were identified in 2017. Out of the 69 young people on the campus, 38, that is, 55%, had a mental health need. In addition to those 38 people, 22 have had a past or current diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD; 32 had been involved with CAMHS at one stage of their lives; 24 of them were referred to ACTS while in Oberstown; 21 had been in care; and 17 were classified as having child protection concerns. Those are significant statistics which is why these specialised supports are so important to these young people.

Were there some other questions?

There was a question on bail supervision.

We have set up a good programme for bail supervision. To date, 25 young people and their families have been supported by the bail supervision provisions. There are nine active cases at present and 16 cases have been closed. The results are showing increasing compliance with the bail conditions, a reduction in the breaches of bail or any new criminal activity and the return to education has been very impressive. By maintaining this number of young people in the community on the bail supervision scheme, there is a reduction in the need for detention places.

A proposal for the extension of the scheme has been submitted to the Department and we are examining it.

I thank HIQA for its report. It was an eye-opener for me. Oberstown is in my constituency and during my recent visit, I had a very thorough engagement with the staff and young adults. I want to thank the staff in particular for their hospitality and the young adults who engaged with me. It is incredibly disappointing that a detention centre of this nature was not designed as detention facility. If it had been designed as a detention facility, we would not have had the basic design flaws of access to both exterior and interior first floor spaces. The design of the doors was flawed and this is inexcusable. The expertise is available in the State and I do not know why this expertise was not engaged to design the centre. It obviously predates this Government. Oberstown has been in existence for many years but some of the buildings are relatively new additions. We have to pick up the pieces, which is both disappointing and expensive.

I will now elaborate on the quality of care that is being provided in Oberstown. In some areas it is very good but improvements can be made in other areas. Great improvements have been made in the health care provision on campus. I refer to the availability of personnel at the appropriate levels of training on site and little things that were highlighted within the HIQA report, such as the staff not being trained up to administer an EpiPen injection or something along those lines. It is important to have GPs on call or on campus or both.

It is important that there is ongoing engagement by Oberstown with the surrounding community. I know this was not covered in the HIQA report but I commend Mr. Pat Bergin, his staff and the team on the level of engagement with the community. However, I personally have concerns about the security outside the campus boundaries that is provided at great cost to the taxpayer and which is completely unnecessary. I think we need to nip items such as that in the bud. We can install improved camera systems or even feedback for the community with a liaison person, rather than spending a great deal of money on employing a man in a van, pointing in the wrong direction when I arrived and left. I even saw this when I passed it recently. I think this is unnecessary. I was informed that such activities are being scaled down but we should do them better.

The Minister is to be complimented on the implementation of the policy to ensure no young person has been placed in adult facilities since March 2017. That is a significant achievement by the Minister and her officials. It is a basic principle to which the State should adhere. The fact that this has been managed on the Minister's watch is important.

The only other matter I wished to raise was single separation, which to be fair has been covered. I appreciated the circumstances that were described to me while I was standing in a cell that is used to isolate an individual. I appreciate entirely the circumstances that staff might find themselves in, having repeatedly tried to resolve an issue. I have no expertise in this area, but as a parent, a person who has been in a classroom and even was present during a fracas, I can understand the reason that such a facility would be important. The prolonged use of single separation, however, is nothing short of inhumane. I do not find it acceptable or excusable that HIQA was forced to highlight that horrific set of circumstances that were endured by an individual child. I sincerely hope the Department and staff have learned the lessons that have to be learned in that case and that we attempt to minimise the implementation of that in the future.

I thank the Chairman for his comments. As the Chairman has focused on the issue of single separation, it has increased my commitment and motivation to have a direct conversation on this issue with the young people when I visit there. I will be happy to revert to the committee and have further discussions in terms of the views and feelings of the young people on their experiences in Oberstown and on whether in their view, things have improved. I think that is a key way of learning. We have not done that part yet in moving this on.

I am aware that the Chairman represents that constituency and has commented on the safety issues from the community's perspective. The Chairman has been gracious in his comments on the meeting with the director and his staff. Certainly the next time I go to Oberstown, which as I said will be relatively soon, it may be possible for the Chairman and members of the community to join me. I would be very happy to continue those conversations with the Chairman and his constituents.

I appreciate that Minister. I call Senator Freeman.

I do not know how appropriate it is to suggest that a member of this committee might accompany the Minister and her team. I mean that a member be allowed to accompany the Minister and then to report back to the committee.

Is the Senator referring to single separation in particular?

The single separation, the restraints and so on. Some members have commented on the time when the Minister will be talking to the staff in Oberstown. This is not checking up on anybody but the issue of single separation has had a great impact on us. I really believe that we could come back and report instead of dragging the Minister back to report on the visit. I do not know how appropriate that would be.

I would be very happy to have one of the committee accompany me. Would Senator Freeman or some other member like to offer to come with me?

I certainly would.

That is a very good suggestion. We are trying to do this piece of work together.

Exactly. I thank the Minister.

I thank the Minister and her officials, Mr. O'Donovan, Ms Shannon and Dr. Lynch, for their attendance to discuss the HIQA report on Oberstown.

I propose that we suspend to allow for the changing of the guard. We will then begin our very important discussion on the affordable childcare scheme and related matters.

Sitting suspended at 11.09 a.m. and resumed at 11.13 a.m.