Press Release

Standards in Children´s Residential Centres Improving

The Annual Report 2002 of the Social Services Inspectorate published today has found standards in children’s residential centres have improved. Day to day care in children´s residential centres was good. Inspectors were impressed with the overall warmth and care shown by staff. Children had a high rate of attendance at school and had a choice of hobbies and recreational activities. Improvements were needed in planning what type of care was best for individual children and having those placements available. The Inspectorate had serious concerns about the young age of some of the children in the centres.

The SSI inspected 57 health board run children´s residential centres between its establishment in 1999 and July 2002. Overall, children were safe and well cared for and had contact with their families. There were approximately 4,500 children in the care of the state, most lived in foster care and about 13% lived in children’s residential centres

Children told inspectors they felt cared for, and that they trusted the staff. Inspectors found 43% of children in centres inspected this year were less than 12 years of age. The reason given for young children living in residential care was that they were with their brothers and sisters or there was a lack of foster care.

More children in this round of inspections had a care plan where key people, including the child, decided what type of care was best. Inspectors found that the quality of plans needed to improve, particularly in deciding if the child still needed to be in residential care and in preparing young people to leave care.

Health boards that had a range of placements to offer children in care, for example foster care placements, and community based and high support residential centres, were able to provide better care for the children who need it.

Of the 22 centres inspected, 15 had staff that were there long enough to provide continuity for the children. In the remaining seven centres there was a high turnover of staff and this impacted on children’s welfare.

The report notes that in general children in residential care were safe, but made recommendations for improvements. These include the appropriate vetting of staff through gardai checks and references, as inspectors found only one centre fully met all vetting requirements. Boards were urged to take action in the minority of instances where children were bullied or assaulted by other children, and recommendations were made about how complaints and child protection allegations were handled.

The Inspectorate welcomes the National Standards on Foster Care, published today by the Department of Health and Children and hopes these will sustain this much needed service and support the development of the number and type of placements required for children awaiting such care.

The Inspectorate is due to be established on a statutory basis in 2003.