Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Children Robert Troy TD has called on the Minister for Children, James Reilly to urgently intervene at Oberstown youth detention centre and implement a reform of management structures, training and planning before a tragic incident occurs at the facility.
Deputy Troy commented, “Staff are massively overburdened and simply do not have time to build personal relationships of trust with the children in their care. Due to management failures, Oberstown is no longer being based on a childcare model but has increasingly become a containment facility.
“Management at Oberstown are not doing enough to support the hard-pressed and long-serving staff at the facility. There are severe staff shortages at the facility and no standardisation of work practices across units within the centre.
“While the management have publicly defended staffing levels at the facility this week by citing a figure of 242 staff, this is disingenuous as that figure includes maintenance staff, grounds keepers and other employees who are not directly involved in the care of young offenders. There is also a worryingly high number of carers at the facility are absent on leave as a result of sickness, assault, suspensions or serious incident.
“The crisis has been precipitated by the ham fisted planning and management of the programme to transfer young offenders from St Patricks to the Oberstown complex. While I welcome the development of new buildings to facilitate this move, it nonetheless remains the case that management have failed to allocate satisfactory resources to run the centre.
“Talking to staff this week, I am shocked at the negligence management appears to show towards the health, safety and well-being of their workers at the facility. Staff are over-burdened and under-trained to deal with the violent behaviour of some of the newer inmates.
“Many of the staff remain severely traumatised after the horrific stabbing incident which took place at the facility last week. This could have been potentially fatal had it not been for the action of staff on the scene. This latest incident follows a number of serious violent attacks which occurred between March and July, in which 9 female and 22 males staff have suffered injuries including concussion, nerve damage, throat injury, stabbings and bites.
“The complete inaction by the Minister to date is beyond disbelief considering the severity of the situation at the centre. The Minister needs to do more than request another report from HIQA on these incidents.
“I am calling on Minister Reilly to come to grips with situation before there is a fatality at the facility. He needs to announce a full review and reform of management structures at Oberstown. New and existing staff members need to be supported and trained. The training offered to staff has been outside of working hours due to the shortage of in-service staff, which means that for many workers they would be obliged to work 14 days straight. This is a barbaric expectation of the already over-worked carers, and, as a matter of urgency, the Minister needs to intervene to ensure that staff are able to avail of appropriate training” said Deputy Troy.