Thursday, 22 February 2018

Ceisteanna (8)

Thomas P. Broughan


8. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of persons employed in the Irish Youth Justice Service of her Department in each of the years 2014 to 2017 and to date in 2018; the role of each; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8830/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Ceist ar Children)

This question was prompted by the recent upsurge of anti-social and criminal behaviour by young people, among others, in my constituency. I know that the Minister has responsibility for part of the Irish Youth Justice Service, which is shared with the Minister for Justice and Equality. There were changes last year relating to the incarceration of children in the adult prison, which are very important. Do we need additional resources, specifically in the area of prevention?

I will be answering the Deputy's question in as much as it refers to staff of my own Department in the Irish Youth Justice Service, IYJS, which is an executive office located in my Department. I will also answer the Deputy's question relating to Oberstown Children Detention Campus. I am fully aware of the context of the constituency that the Deputy so ably represents. Some officials from the Department of Justice and Equality are co-located in the IYJS. My colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality, will reply in written format to the Deputy about them.

The number of employees of my Department working in the Irish Youth Justice Service at end of each year and to date is as follows. At the end of 2014, there was a headcount of 11 people and a whole-time equivalent number of 9.8 people. The whole-time equivalent number stood at 8.6 at the end of 2015 and was 9.6 at the end of 2016. It was ten at the end of 2017 and stands at 9.9 today. The whole-time equivalent number of people reflects the fact that some staff in the headcount do not work full-time, so it is a stronger representation of the actual workforce. On the roles of these staff, there are two principal officers supported by teams from my Department in the IYJS. One principal officer has responsibility for policy relating to Oberstown Children Detention Campus, including the provision of safe and secure custody for children. The second principal officer has responsibility for the development of standards and policy for the delivery of safe care for children in Oberstown and youth justice services. The supporting team consists of three assistant principal officers, one higher executive officer, two administrative officers, two executive officers and two clerical officers.

The numbers employed in Oberstown Children Detention Campus in the years the Deputy requested are as follows. There were 233.58 whole-time equivalent employees in 2014. The number of whole-time equivalents in 2015 was 215.03. It rose to 248.5 in 2016, there were 245 staff in 2017 and at present there are 241 staff. Recent fluctuations in these numbers are a reflection of temporary timing issues in filling vacancies.

The 2016 report of the Garda juvenile diversion programme made for shocking reading in that 17,500 incidents were referred to the juvenile diversion programme with 9,451 young offenders. On Oberstown itself, I know the Minister has kept in close touch with the campus and developments there. We had the review by Professor Ursula Kilkelly. What is the Minister's current view on the HIQA report, which found that there was serious non-compliance with two of the main areas investigated and moderate non-compliance with six areas? I know that Mr. Pat Bergin reported to the committee here that the campus is licensed to accommodate 54 young people. The Minister has just given us the staff numbers. It normally has a population of approximately 40. We have heard about the critical incident stress management policy which has been implemented. There have been approximately 80 very serious incidents over the past couple of years.

As the Deputy said, I have regular contact with the chair, board and executive of Oberstown. I have been there many times and I am due to go there again.

There is adequate staffing at the centre, as there have been no requests for additional staff. On the recommendations for improvements, specifically the ones identified by the Deputy, various oversight reports have been initiated and completed on how the centre operates the care and protection of children at the campus. A group put together developed an action plan and conglomerated the set of actions required to be implemented. I am in regular contact with this group. I understand the implementation of these actions to improve is on target.

In the old system, when children were in the adult prison, it used to be said they graduated from St. Patrick's to Mountjoy. Unfortunately, as a result, they lead difficult lives. Has the Minister undertaken any research in tracking people who have been in Oberstown to check all the services are working in ensuring they can live useful and happy lives? Has the Minister received any requests from the agencies which support the work of the Oberstown service, such as the Tallaght West Childhood Development Initiative, Le Chéile, the Probation Service, the Youth Advocate Programmes, YAP, and Tusla, for increased funding to be able to support their services and ensure the people in question will be able to lead useful and peaceful lives?

I will investigate if there have been any requests for additional support and revert to the Deputy. I will also come back to the Deputy on whether research has been conducted on the paths taken by young people when they move on from Oberstown.

I have met young people at St. Patrick's and Wheatfield who should have been in Oberstown but we were not able to facilitate them. There are significant issues in that they have not been able to move out of the prison context. There is a brilliant educational facility at Oberstown, which is important in dealing with this issue.

The bail supervision scheme is working well. We want to extend it to offer more opportunities outside rather than inside the prison context.

The deferred reply under Standing Order 42A was forwarded to the Deputy.