Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth | Numbers of children in institutional or custodial care and the observation of their rights
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 the children’s rights continue to be observed in such circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
At the end of October 2022, which is the latest data published by Tusla, there were 5,810 children and young people in the care of the State. Of these, 446 (7.7%) were in Residential Care, and 15 (3.4%) were in secure Special Care.
Both Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, and my Department 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, Health Act 2007 (Care and Welfare of Children in Special Care Units) (Amendment) Regulations 2018, and the Health Act 2007 (Registration of Designated Centres) (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 (Oberstown), occupancy rates in 2022 have averaged approximately 31 per day. As of the 7th February 2023 there were 35 children in Oberstown, 14 on remand awaiting trial and 21 serving sentences, all boys.
Oberstown provides a range of care and education services to children up to the age of 18 and a half detained by the courts on remand or detention orders. It is currently authorised to accommodate a maximum of 46 children – 40 boys and 6 girls.
Oberstown operates under the Children Act 2001 (the Act), as amended, under the auspices of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY).
The Campus strives to provide young people in detention with the highest standards of rights-based, child centred care that meets their needs and enables them to maximise their potential.
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. In September 2021, this Framework became operational and replaced the ‘Standards & Criteria for Inspection of Children Detention Schools’.
This Framework consists of 12 Rules underpinned by policies and procedures that seek to ensure that Oberstown is a place where young people are safe, where they get the best possible care, and their rights are respected. The Rules cover the five pillars of CEHOP®, the Oberstown model of care, along with other key aspects of the safety and care of young people and staff at Oberstown. It is against the Children’s Rights Policy Framework that Inspectors from the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) carry out independent annual inspections at Oberstown.
In 2021, the Department of Justice adopted the Youth Justice Strategy 2021-2027 and it makes specific references to the role of Oberstown in the youth justice system, assigning lead or co-responsibility to Oberstown for a range of strategic actions.
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.
There is an Advocacy Officer employed in Oberstown whose role is to provide a link between young people, Oberstown management and the Oberstown Board of Management. The advocacy process ensures that young people’s rights are both protected and promoted, and that they are enabled to participate actively in this process.
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