Children; Equality; Disability; Integration and Youth | Children in residential and institutional care
To ask the Minister for Children; Equality; Disability; Integration and Youth the number of children now in the various forms of institutional or custodial care; the extent to which children’s rights continue to be observed in such circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
At the end of July 2022, there were 5,826 children and young people in the care of the State. Of these, 418 (7.2%) were in Residential Care, and 15 (2.6%) were in secure Special Care.
Both Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth are committed to promoting safe and high quality practice in all areas of Alternative Care. This is achieved through the application of Regulations and Standards that govern the placement of children and young people.
The placement of children in Residential Care is governed by the National Standards for Children’s Residential Centres 2001, and underpinned by the Child Care (Placement in Residential Care) Regulation 1995, and the Child Care (Standards in Children’s Residential Centres) 1996. The placement of children in Special Care is governed by the National Standards for Special Care Units 2014, as well as the Health Act 2007 (Care and Welfare of Children in Special Care Units) Regulations 2017.
HIQA carries out announced and unannounced inspections of statutory Children’s Residential Centres and Special Care units. HIQA carry out these inspections against the identified Regulations and Standards. Tusla is the statutory regulator of Private and Voluntary Children’s Residential Centres, and is therefore responsible for the registration and inspection of these centres in accordance with Regulations, standards, and the relevant provisions of the Child Care Act 1991.
The foregoing sets out the safeguards in place with regard to all placements of children in residential and special care. Tusla in discharging its statutory responsibilities under the Child Care Acts must have the best interests of the child as its paramount consideration. It actively monitors every placement of every child in care to ensure its appropriateness to the needs of that child, and any concerns or breaches of standards or Regulations are addressed in this context.
With regard to the number of children detained within Oberstown Children Detention Campus, occupancy rates since January 2022 have averaged approximately 30 on a daily basis, but the actual number on any given day can be higher. As of 12th October there were 28 children in Oberstown, 12 on remand awaiting trial and 16 serving sentences.
Oberstown has developed a range of services and approaches to address the needs of young people. This includes a focus on Care, Education, Health, challenging Offending behaviour and Preparation for leaving under what is known as the CEHOP® model of care.
In 2020, Oberstown adopted a new policy platform – the Children’s Rights Policy Framework – in line with national and international standards. The Framework was developed to ensure that there is a consistent; rights based approach to the care of young people. It is against the Children’s Rights Policy Framework that Inspectors from the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) carry out independent inspections at Oberstown.
Oberstown is also fully committed to the implementation of the public sector equality and human rights duty, as set out in section 42 of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Act 2014.
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